When I was fourteen I ran away. I became a hermit in Death Valley. I expected to dehydrate to whatever was my essence and, in that way, discover myself. But a hundred-year storm came in, and nearly drowned me. Wildflowers bloomed like never before in that parched landscape. Yellow and purple are the colors I remember.
Death Valley was too beautiful for me. I returned to suburbia wearing a pair of shoes a lady ranger had given me when she discovered I hadn’t any.
I’ve told you about Tu. She was the Vietnamese girl in the famous photograph who ran naked down the road, her clothes burned off by napalm. Her cunt burns with a blue kerosene flame, so when you tell me I should join E-Harmony, all I can do is laugh ‘til I cry.
When we were a couple, we owned a dog and named him Fido. He was the first dog ever named Fido. It caught on. Now every other dog has that name.
You can’t wear a condom when you fuck her because it ignites and melts down over your cock and is incredibly painful, as you can imagine.
I bought some cheap plastic hangers, and hung some clothes in Tu’s closet, mostly cheap Hawaiian shirts I’d bought in Hilo for a dollar each. I tossed a few pairs of shoes on the floor, my dirty white Airwalks, my New Balance cross trainers. I was so lost by that time, there was nothing that lacked significance. Tu’s decaying mansion would be my new home. Tu had a few things in the closet, not much. I was surprised to find a strapless, sequined ball gown. Tu came over and slipped it off its hangar, stripped me and pulled it over my head, and painted bright red lipstick on my puss.
This is no longer extravagant, I said, not shocking, not groundbreaking. It’s old hat now, like feminism, like women’s suffrage.
But you’ve never done it, Tu said. She was right.
Later we went for a walk in the woods. Suddenly a thunderstorm drenched us to the skin. Lightning flashed around us. A bolt hit a tree not fifty feet away. We screamed and dropped down into a ditch. Water flowed around us. We were two small boulders. We lay there and watched the water reflect the flashes of lightning and flow into a cement pipe, transporting molecules of our flesh.
We are immersed in life, said Tu. She was a psychiatrist. Her skin had absorbed napalm and never thoroughly released it. Her skin sizzled like chicken fajitas. I needed a shot of tequila. I needed to lick the salt, suck the lime. Glass embedded in my left love handle worked itself loose as if it were responding to a unique kind of laxative.
We are immersed in life, Tu repeated.
A crawdad scuttled over my leg, red and raw. I remembered all the times I’d sucked their heads and ate their tails. I watched the glass leave my hip and sparkle in the water like blood diamonds.
Tu and I meditated until our legs went pins and needles. We didn’t need legs. They shattered.
When I was a child I broke greenhouse glass—Fun!—then ran away through the crabapple orchard. Old Man Dengler—or was it his dog?—nipped at my heels. Dengler cursed me as I fled. He had come from Germany for this?
Now, my legs broken, I felt justice had been exacted.
It was too late for Tu and I to worry about being stripped of licenses or credentials—we were way past the point where any of that mattered.
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over a thousand of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and other awards for work published in 2011 through 2015. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois.