My hybrid creative nonfiction work How Mary, Joseph and Jesus F*cked Up My Love Life is up at The Hunger Journal. It’s an odd piece written in an odd style that merges religion with attitudes about sex, desire, loneliness and the rest of that complex and maddening stuff.
Here is a sample:
I rode down to see an ex-lover on a train that was really a bus, my face pressing the window as farmland blurred past. Yellow fields and cows, the sky flat and washed silent. The whole way I was hungry for pancakes, not homemade but the starchy, salted version from a boxed mix.
(Pancakes, my mother once said, are for people too cheap to buy cereal.)
This man and I once fucked on the conference room table, in the newsroom where we both worked, on a Sunday when good people fled temples pressing damp hands over lepers’ sores.
(“Jesus, Jesus,” Mary calls from the temple, “where the fuck are you?”)
Afterwards, I wrote an obituary about a woman who was killed by her son and buried beneath his trailer. It was the smell that alerted the neighbors, who alerted the police. They found the son sitting at the kitchen table and eating a ham sandwich.
(Ham and cheese with mayonnaise, that’s what my mother fixed for my lunch each Wednesday. Tuesdays it was peanut butter and Thursdays, egg salad.)
I didn’t eat eggs but I liked to hold them in my palms, round and white and prefect. Sometimes I licked the shells, paper thin but strong, housing membrane and bone, a womb of life. Eggs are sexy, I told him.
(Amen, my lover said, crossing himself and offering his fingers for me to lick.)
Fiction number one:
Because he lived in a studio apartment and because we were no longer lovers, I slept on blankets in his walk-in closet, my back tucked up against the wall, the door slats squeezing in tiny slants of light that fell across my chest. I took off my shirt, my breast bare and free. After he fell asleep, I sneaked to the bathroom and stole things that wouldn’t be missed: soap, shaving cream, a spare blue washcloth.
I packed these in my suitcase, sat at the foot of his bed and listened to his breath. He slept on; he had no idea that I was so close. I could have been invisible, a ghost.
(Ghost, noun, 1. An apparition of a dead person that is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.)
After my father died when I was six, I was afraid to sleep at night, afraid of the long spaces between night and morning, when my body slipped away to places I couldn’t decipher. Anything could happen while I was sleeping. I could fall out of bed, kick my legs until the sheets twisted around my knees. I could die.
My mother was too caught up in her own grief to notice mine and my older sisters hadn’t the energy to deal with my fright. My youngest sister slept easily in the bed across the room, her breath rising and falling. I matched my breaths with her and slowly sank down. But always I jerked myself awake, afraid of what waited at the edge of the darkness.
The only way I could sleep was by imagining bees. I closed my eyes, a swarm of bees swimming behind my eyelids. Their wings humming, their bodies pale yellow. I slowed my breath and followed the slight tap of these wings as they flew out over the fields and beyond the trees to the woods, to spaces where I had never been. I flew over mountains and deserts, oceans and rainforests and the thick, milky sand dunes I had seen once in a “National Geographic” special.
(“Imagine flying through the sky like a bird,” Peter says to Jesus.
“Won’t happen in your lifetime,” Jesus snaps. He’s in a snarly mood, his bad tooth is acting up again. He sighs, as if in apology. “Flying is no big deal,” he says. “You just lift your arms, jump and pray like fucking hell.”)
Fiction number two:
I wear glasses, not because I can’t see, which I can’t, but because I need a filter between myself and the world.
I didn’t like my lover when we first met. I’d hide beneath my desk whenever I saw him walking towards me from across the newsroom. He was too serious. He read old issues of The New Yorker. He wore sandals with socks, for Christ’s sake. One day he invited me to eat dinner with him in the conference room on a Sunday, in the winter darkness. Sitting next to him, the only light a thin ribbon from beneath the door, he forked pasta into my mouth, spicy noodles covered in salted sauce. Onions sharp as an elbow. Croutons biting my back teeth. The cold jab of fork tines against my tongue. Was this a romantic moment? No matter. Sex is a litany regardless of the mood.
(“Imagine Jesus reading The New Yorker,” I said.
My lover laughed, turned the page. I stared at an advertisement for an expensive watch.
“Would he read fiction or poetry?” I asked.
My lover placed his hand on my bare leg, kept reading. I wondered what kind of watch Jesus would wear. A cheap model from the Walmart? One of those fancy sports designs that tracks mileage and interval laps? I imagined him taking off his watch and placing it on the ground before he gets into bed with Mary Magdalene. Afterwards, Mary places the watch around her own, more slender wrist.
“What time is it?” she teases. Jesus lies beside her, sweat drying his forehead. He smiles warily but what he’s really thinking is: it’s too much damned work trying to keep a woman satisfied.)
You can read the rest here.