photo from pixabay
Giving It Up
Having given up on marriage, I took up cheating. Having given up on Alex, I took up Jason. Having given up on savings, I took on debt (in part, to pay for therapy). Having given up on debt, I took to asking my husband to pay the rent. Yes, the same husband I’d given up on. A man of simple means who bought me this computer and this phone and now this roof over my head. I gave him head, in return, as he sat on the same green couch (and I knelt on the same grey mat) as Alex and Jason did before him. Having given up on certainty, I took up only being certain of how unsure I am. Having given up on who I’ve always been, I got a tattoo, so why not get another? (I’ve already put down the deposit, even though I can’t pay down my credit cards.) Having given up on days off, I took up working on them, so I can pay for frills like Pilates and contact lenses and eye cream and mani/pedis and yes, even body art. Screw the rent. I haven’t given up on ink just yet. Not the purple kind that fills my pen or the multicolored kind that decorates my right wrist and soon-to-be left ankle, though that one will be black. Having given up on morality, I took up accepting unemployment money for a year. Perhaps one shady behavior led to another. "Don’t do anything that’ll keep you up at night," my mother said. Having given up on sleeping soundly, I’ve taken to dreaming all the guilty dreams— thoughts I suppress during the day— when, having given up on everything, I gave up on myself; or maybe that's not quite true. Maybe I only gave up on the idea of you and me and tradition and norms and values, and my new vow is saying screw it and generally not giving a fuck. And maybe, giving zero fucks, I'm only now getting started— I'm just not somewhere I can think about it at present. *Inspired by Jeff Oaks's Having Given Up as originally published in Fourth Genre and later in Sunday Short Reads (#191) Dirty Laundry Oh, Hamper: with your malodorous scent wafting toward me, awakening me from my daydream— you are overflowing with sweaty Pilates leggings, sweaty Pilates underwear, sweaty Pilates sports bras (all mine), not to mention dirty boy socks and sticky summer clothes (my Camp Director husband’s). Once rectangular, you are now misshapen with your left side jutting outward like a cocked hip. You have visible bruising—lines and gashes— on your bumpy beige exterior, a bumpy beige that reminds me of my childhood home and its in-your-face modern facade. There, it was me who would often be marked— scraped and scratched—by the hazardous, sticking-out stucco. There, since the fifth grade, it was me who hauled my too-stuffed hamper, You, to the laundry room, dragging You against the medium-pile grey carpeting in revolt. Because I refused to help Mom do the family’s laundry, thinking it beneath me to touch my brother and dad’s disgusting tighty-whities—brown with stains— I was left, as punishment, to do my own washing. So, since the age of 11, You, Hamper, have been eyeing me, and I have been smelling you, as I impatiently wait out the spin cycle. (Part II) I Once Made a Shocking Discovery Sitting on the laundry room’s white Formica countertops, I began opening and closing cabinets to pass the time. Two loads down, one to go. (Mom taught me to always separate into three piles: whites, colors, and reds.) Speaking of Mom, I could see an invitation out of the corner of my eye with her name, Debra Gail, practically screaming at me. It was written in cursive and looked worn with age, but it seemed to be calling: Miri Rose, Miri Rose. So, I picked up the cardstock as beckoned— it was as rectangular as You in your younger years, Hamper, and I saw that Violet and Laurence (my grandparents) were inviting their beloved friends and family to gather on a June afternoon in the ‘70s as their daughter Debra Gail wed some dude named Bob. What the actual heck? My dad’s name is Norman, and he and Mom had married on Tax Day: April 15, of ‘82. And so, it was while sitting atop counters made for folding clean laundry and riffling innocently through cupboards filled with odds and ends—buttons, sewing needles, scoopable Tide, Downy dryer sheets, and one errant wedding invitation— that I learned of my mother’s first marriage. The marriage, I later discovered, was foul. It smelled worse than You, Hamper. Mom had tried to back out of the wedding before the big day, but she really liked his mother— a strong pull when you have but a dead- and step-one of your own. Plus, she felt guilty that money had already been spent. Invitations sent out. I wonder why she kept this one? Why she stuffed it in the laundry room the way I stuff stinky clothes into You— an aging hamper that’s as worn and faded as a beloved pair of jeans or a decades-old wedding invitation. Hamper, do you remember when I hardly filled you at all? When I took everything to the dry cleaner and bought new underwear whenever I ran out, rather than hauling your smelly ass down flights of creaky apartment stairs, along with carefully counted-out quarters, and a too-heavy bottle of liquid Cheer? Now, Hamper, I make my husband deal with you. You are filled with several mesh bags: one in which I keep my intimates, including my Pilates grip socks; one that contains just my stretchy workout pants; one that gets dried; and one for the clothes that should NOT go in the dryer. No longer do I sort by whites, colors, and reds. No, that sorting system fell out of favor when I learned of Mom’s own dirty laundry. Unmoored I wanted more thrill. I wanted a tongues curling, backs arching, bare bellies touching kind of lust. I wanted more danger. I wanted middle-of-the-day, windows open, curtains drawn brazenness. I wanted nosy neighbors who, envious-throated, would peek and listen and wonder—What's going on up there?—more and with greater curiosity. I wanted more hunger, and I wanted urgency. To be taken, devoured, and eaten up in a I-must-have-Chinese-food-and-I-must-have-it-now kind of way; to be savored like moo shu pork. I wanted more sameness. I wanted nights in, take-out boxes stacked on the counter, TV-before-bed. I wanted comfort and routine: coffees shared in the mornings, secrets shared in the evenings, a neighborhood walk in the hours between. I wanted financial and emotional security and more of both, so we could spend our money as freely as we spent our together-time. I wanted to be selfish. I wanted it all. Passion and a partner. Novelty and grounding. Commitment and the freedom to explore my own interests, whomever they may be. I wanted lips and drapes parted for daytime dalliances and the quiet privacy of a doting husband after-hours. I wanted to be greedy without guilt—the familiar imprint of my wedding ring on my finger and the equally familiar imprint of an old lover's still-smoldering body on my memory foam marriage mattress. I wanted to stay together for as long as I could keep juggling my conflicting desires. I still want to get away with it.
Bio: The pseudonymous Miri Gould publishes works of poetry and creative nonfiction. Her personal essays can be found in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Brevity, and The Manifest-Station to name a few, and she has been nominated for awards by Meow Meow Pow Pow (best short fiction) and Kelp (best of the net), where her work has also appeared. Her poems, meanwhile—which have run in Sledgehammer Lit, Neuro Logical, Poke, and The Erozine—tend to be erotic in nature. Miri lives in LA, where she teaches fitness by day and writes by candlelight.