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The Difficult Ones

Brandon Cole

The Possibility of Being Who You Are

We are proud to present chapters 19 through 26 of Brandon's novel, "The Difficult Ones." We will continue to serialize his book in future issues. See our prior issues for the first 18 chapters.

Chapters 1-5

Chapters 6-13

Chapters 14-18


So Tom hates existence without being aware that he does and he occasionally takes his snarling unconscious hatred out on his frail elderly mother. That behavior is plausible enough I suppose and common enough unfortunately. And Tom has unsanitary dress factories in foreign countries, well well well, and a fun-loving dick-brained partner named Dennis, whose every answer to a financial problem is always the same, “We pack up and go bankrupt, that’s what Tommy boy, that’ll fix their over-sized bullshit quick! So we owe them money, so what? They can’t wait for it? I’ll rip the phones out right now and move out-of-state tomorrow! How’s that sound, Tommy, huh? Sounds good, right?”

OK fine, Dennis, but what about Andrea finding those disturbing pictures of your factories? There better not be a social-protest theme developing here with hand-wringing moralizing about exploitation of the disenfranchised.

There is something worrisomely accusatory in those press clippings and pictures Andrea found of Tom’s foreign dress factories. Andrea was certain she saw unsanitary conditions, with shoeless twelve-year olds standing in puddles of black water near huge cutting machines and pregnant workers trying frantically to enter locked bathrooms.

But, for instance, how could Andrea be certain those bathrooms were locked? Is it not possible that the door knob was malfunctioning or that the toilet was stopped up from employee misuse and that the problem, whichever it was, would soon be fixed? Possibilities, certainly these too are possibilities, as Tom self-righteously and vehemently would have pointed out to Andrea if she had bothered to ask him about those disturbing news articles and photos before she jumped to her own conclusions.

I need to find Andrea a job. I would like to discover her as a teacher, or a librarian in the language and literature department at the public library, or a graphics designer, but those are all prejudices of mine. I prefer soft-spoken well-intentioned people and I like to believe people in those jobs speak softly and do good. Many certainly do, I know that for a fact.

Of course Andrea went to college and even has some sort of master’s degree that cost thousands of dollars and which she has never used. When Andrea was in her twenties, her parents were so worried about how unhappy she was that they sent her to see a psychiatrist, but he proved unable to help because Andrea sneered at his questions and refused to answer them truthfully. When the psychiatrist finally gave up, he advised Andrea to take a pet, some animal she could hold but simple to take care of and with large eyes, like a hamster.

That hamster sounds to me like good advice but Andrea rejected it. She saw that large-eyed hamster as a false friendship, as a cheap substitute for the love she needed from her parents and as a trick to take her mind off herself. Andrea wanted to keep her mind on herself, so her unhappiness and her mental disturbances continued and slowly became a more serious problem for her and especially more serious for her parents.

Of course Andrea’s parents worried she was taking drugs and of course she was.  But despite the many expensive studies that documented the dangers of drug taking, Andrea’s drug taking was not the problem with her, nor was it a problem at all. Andrea’s drugs were just part of her life as she lived it then. Andrea’s problem, if she had one, was that she had been raised carelessly, with insufficient attention paid to her development and with insufficient love, as most of the children in the world are raised, absolutely no doubt about it and disturbing as that is to face.

End of writing number 19



I am pleased to be writing about Andrea finally, and pleased to have given myself what should have been the simple task of finding out what her job is, but in spending even this small amount of time with her, I have torn a spot raw and bloody on my forehead.

Because of these latest difficulties with Andrea, a few bloodstains have appeared on my desk which I have to clean now.

By clean now I mean later or eventually or never.

When I first noticed blood under my finger nail, I was satisfied just wondering where it came from and also satisfied not finding an answer. Later, with a similar lack of result, I wondered if I had bugs in my hair, though I know I do not. I felt no pain from my self-inflicted wound but if I had been in pain, I am confident I would have steeled myself against it until it subsided or until I writhed on the floor in agony, smothering my screams into my fist. That is the kind of man I am, so I like to think anyway.

And maybe I am that kind of man sometimes though certainly not all times. The sharp pain in my foot for example that causes me sometimes to limp – what about it? “Nothing, that’s what about it!” is what I say. Many people suffer silently with such recurring pains and many other people suffer silently with much worse ones though it is pointless to complain about the disgraceful state of health care in the United States of America, absolutely pointless.

Or when I lose all confidence in who I am, that can prove a disturbing few moments. But even then I try to restrain myself from running to the mirror for self-assurance, even in those moments of severest identity loss. In fairness, I also need to recognize that looking at myself in the mirror has failed to be as reassuring to me as it once was.

When I first noticed blood under my fingernail, I continued to search for Andrea’s job until more blood accumulated and trickled down my finger. That pushed me to look in the mirror and yes, while struggling and failing to find Andrea’s job, I had picked a chunk of skin off my forehead. I dabbed the hole with a finger full of saliva like a monkey, remembering something about the amount of germs in human saliva, although perhaps they are not called germs but bacteria. I meant to use a disinfectant, I have some in the cabinet like everyone, but have yet to follow through with that cleansing which means I will not do it.

Yes, Andrea, I know you are trying to tell me something by the turmoil you cause me. I know that you are trying to tell me that you are not a guaranteed good time and being with you will involve more than slipping you out of your bra and fingering your panties down to your ankles so you can wiggle out of them and open your thighs. It is certain that becoming involved with you would cause blood to flow between us sooner or later.

But it is just as certain that the blood flow can be kept to a minimum between us as between all human beings, that is what I believe and that is what I know to be true, despite much bloody evidence and killing to the contrary.

End of writing number 20



I am losing confidence in this narrative again.

Loose ends are mounting and I see no clear sign which way to go. On top of these serious aesthetic flaws, I have begun to pick my face until I start to bleed.

Perhaps someone would be able to take this last paragraph and put a nice bounce to it, developing an encouraging speech around it like, “Come on now, Claude, what’s the matter with you complaining all the time, just keep forging ahead, what’s your problem? Stop whining!

“So you’re picking your face at your desk, so what? You think you’re the only one who writes and picks his face? Pick your face until it’s just a bloody rag! Gouge big chunks out of your forehead and claw your way down to your cheekbones if that’s what you need to do to keep writing! The blood will clot eventually and the scars will all be worth it, you’ll see!

”Your narrative may be hopelessly adrift and unsalvageable, that’s true, and may remain unfinished and unread, but, trust me, at a dinner party people will ask you about those nasty-looking scars on your face, people who, if you lacked these disfigurements, would never have bothered to speak to you!

“Some of these people could work for an important literary magazine or why would they be eating wild boar and drinking sixteen-dollar bottles of red wine? Where do you buy wild boar meat in this country, Claude? Do you have the slightest idea? Wild boar is not an American food! They eat wild boar in Italy! Did you hear what I’m saying to you? Sixteen-dollar bottles of red wine from Umbria and a literary magazine, do you call that camel shit?

“Wake up, Claude, and look at me when I talk to you, please! Thank you! When well-connected and literate people lean toward you over dinner and wave a glass of over-priced red wine in your face, that’s a good sign, isn’t it? Who knows where one of those conversations might lead?”

An important literary-magazine dinner party, is that where we are all going this evening? And expensive red wine too from Umbria? Well, maybe.

I thought Bertie’s property manager, Mr. Sheen, a stoop-shouldered big-bellied man with a perpetually stern expression, would play an important role in this narrative, possibly a heart-warming and gently comedic role. But Mr. Sheen was mentioned only once pages ago and not heard from again until now.

Perhaps Mr. Sheen is connected to Andrea. They both seem to like to keep themselves well in the background and remain unknown. Perhaps Andrea is blood-related to Mr. Sheen and shyness runs in their family. But I find it hard to believe that Andrea is Mr. Sheen’s blood relation. In the first place, Mr. Sheen is a black man and Andrea is a white woman.

It is possible that Andrea found a temporary job in a laid-back real-estate office and that is how she and Mr. Sheen met. Why not? Andrea could very easily have temp-worked in a with-it real estate office before she met Tom. She has the attractive face and figure for a front-office real-estate job and she looks confident in clothes, especially some expensive cashmere or merino that just drifts along the slope of her shoulders and the soft curve of her breasts and hips.

With a worthless master’s degree in fine arts, what would prevent Andrea from taking a temporary job at a downtown and easy-going real-estate firm if the pay was half-way decent and it threw in health insurance?

Nothing would prevent her from working a real-estate job like that as far as I can tell and so long as Andrea believed the job was a temporary one.

What would prevent that firm from having an ongoing interest in transitional neighborhoods and in various residential and industrial properties including Bertie’s apartment buildings? What would prevent that firm from buying Bertie’s buildings if it thinks it can turn them over in a year or two for a lot more money? Is that not what real-estate firms do, some of them, buy buildings that are not for sale?

Andrea certainly had not thought to remain in this temporary real-estate job as long as she had, but she did remain and her responsibilities to the firm slowly increased. This real-estate firm has a name of course but I do not know what it is and no one cares anyway, and it has a reputation for being one step ahead of the next gentrifying wave.

One of the partners had stumbled upon Bertie’s buildings and had brought his discovery back to the office without much hope that the business would go anywhere. But a decision was taken to buy Bertie’s apartment buildings, so long as the tenants could be removed without trouble, and to sit on the empty buildings a year or two, or renovate them, or tear them down and put up luxury condominiums or an office building or a multiplex cinema.

End of writing number 21



There is some bullshit making its way into this narrative. So far the bullshit is tolerable but it is something I must address because it has not gone away on its own. I have been watching it apprehensively for two days, stuck as I am having to form this ugly real-estate world Andrea temporarily stepped into, and this nagging criticism that there is some bullshit floating around these last writing sessions has stuck with me too.

That was bullshit with the downtown real-estate firm’s partner “stumbling upon Bertie’s apartment buildings”.

Stumbling into apartment buildings? Was it that dark? Even if the neighborhood was terribly run-down, filled with drug dealers and prostitutes, and the streetlights were broken, what was he doing stumbling about at night in that kind of neighborhood anyway? Visiting some misguided college friend who lived in an illegal storefront was he, or buying heroin, or looking for quick street sex in his car for less than fifteen dollars? Or was he driving around one evening with his companion looking for an out-of-the-way dining experience?

Sure, some bullshit scenario like any one of those is possible, you choose.

But even earlier with those blood stains on my desk, what was going on there?

Blood stains on my desk from picking my forehead? Was I picking my forehead with a hunting knife perhaps? Or how about this handy linesman’s pliers right here in my drawer that’s indispensable for residential electrical wiring jobs?

The truth is those blood stains were bullshit too but they slid out of me and I let them slide. I looked away, I did, what the hell, the blood was a vivid dramatic effect is what I told myself. Other writers put that kind of simple dramatic effect in their work all the time to reawaken interest so why should I berate myself over it?

But I have been berating myself and I have been fretting over those fake blood stains, because a vivid dramatic effect those fake blood stains may be, or they may be larger-than-life nonsense and plausible enough or even really interesting to some one, but those blood stains are also just plain bullshit.

With a little bullshit creeping in, this narrative may soon be back on its path and humming along again easily, and straight on its way to an unsatisfying ending like most endings. Blood on my face, yes there was, and under my fingernail, oh yes, that blood was there because of Andrea that blood was all true, and I continue to have nothing but a hard time with her.

I was scratching skin off my face trying to write about Andrea, but blood running down my finger and collecting on my desk? Come on, that blood on my desk is bullshit!

What am I all of a sudden, Claude the hemophiliac? I can call those fake blood stains on my desk dramatic effect as I have tried to do, or I can call them swirling dust storms blotting out the sunlight of discretion, but they are bullshit and I should go back and cross those fake blood stains out, I should, but I really do not want to. I am hoping I can sneak ahead just this one time. But my confidence in my judgment is shaken, the important bit of it that I had been building up.

On Andrea’s first visit to Bertie’s apartments, the property manager, Mr. Sheen, refused to help her. Brushing aside Andrea’s request to meet the owner, Mr. Sheen told her politely, “Miss Bertie owns these buildings but she would not want me talking to you.”

When Andrea persisted to question him, based only on her conviction that Mr. Sheen’s silence was unacceptable, he stepped back surprised.

“Hold on, Ma’am! Miss Bertie would not want me talking to you and that’s all there is to it.”

“But I’m just doing my job,” said Andrea, completely unaware how mindlessly conventional she sounded.

“It’s clear you are. But I need to speak to Miss Bertie about talking to you first and that is really the whole story, as I’ve said to you now a few times.”

“But can’t you call Miss Bertie so I can speak to her as long as I’ve driven all the way here?” Andrea emphasized “all the way here” as though driving all the way anywhere made her eligible for special consideration from Mr. Sheen.

“Well, now, no,” said Mr. Sheen still unimpressed. “I’m surprised you would ask me to do that, dear.”

“But why? Why are you surprised?”

“Because that’s not what the telephone is for between Miss Bertie and me. Miss Bertie’s warned me many times not to talk with realtors. Specifically now,” he said mildly waving his finger at her, “so I’m under a strict condition to Miss Bertie and I will not disobey that woman.”

“Well I suppose if you can’t call her, then you can’t call her. I suppose that’s just the way it is. I guess there’s nothing more for me to say and I might as well leave.” Andrea finished without meaning one word of what she had just said.

“Uh huh.”

“I just don’t understand, though! I really don’t Mr. Sheen, why you can’t make a simple telephone call to Miss Bertie for me!”

“I see you don’t understand.”

“I just don’t get it!”

“Well, let me explain myself,” he said still calm, still mild, and still absolutely unmovable. “I respect that elderly woman and admire what she’s done here by herself.”

He waved to the buildings behind him.

“These four buildings are her buildings and have been for years. Do you know what it’s like for a widowed woman to run buildings like these all by herself? Some folks have lived in them twenty years and more so they must be thinking she’s been doing a fairly good job.”

“But I do understand that these are her buildings,” said Andrea, finally weary. “Mr. Sheen, please, you don’t have to keep telling me who owns them and what it means to keep them running. But we keep returning to the same problem. Just to make a simple telephone call to Miss Bertie, that’s all I’m asking you to do. I’ll speak to Miss Bertie. You won’t have to say anything.”

“You say you understand these buildings but you don’t act like you do,” Mr. Sheen said disapprovingly. “These are not my buildings, these are Miss Bertie’s. That means when Miss Bertie tells me something definite like this, there’s always some sense to it, whether you see the sense or not. So for me to pester her with a telephone call knowing her like I do, no, now, no, that is not how life is here. That is not how folks live here.”

Andrea was about to say something, but Mr. Sheen shook his head firmly for her not to.

“Please, now, you need to hear me out.

“When I told you I can’t make a phone call to Miss Bertie about selling her buildings, well that’s it, I just won’t do it. That should have stopped you but it didn’t. A call like that could make her tenants apprehensive and how would that be? Is that what you’d like me to do? To make these tenants apprehensive that they may be forced from their homes? And then Miss Bertie would have to call every one of them to reassure them their homes were safe.

“Some folks here have families, with grandparents and children, and Miss Bertie herself is now more than eighty years old. You think that woman spends her time thinking about nothing but making money? Don’t you think she cares about how folks live here? Don’t you think you should too? Tell me now, would you like a stranger to come into your building and make you apprehensive about where you live?”

End of writing number 22



If I have to write about how Andrea and Bertie meet and how Tom and his penis comes into one of their meetings later or earlier or who knows when, I will fail at that task. I am unable to write about so many meetings. I doubt I am able to write about a few of them. I doubt even two of them, but maybe two, maybe two of their meetings if they are short and to the point and Tom makes an early clumsy sex move towards Andrea and is gently rebuffed or accepted by her.

Clearly, Andrea and Bertie will meet concerning Bertie’s apartment buildings, their business meeting is pretty clearly being set up, unbearably clear for some people including me. When a business meeting is that clear, what point is there to writing about it? I have no idea yet what that point could be. Maybe there could be a fire alarm that empties the building just when everyone is about to sit down. What a surprise that might be!

But I will try to spare myself and everyone a plodding unfolding of a plot.

Help me, Andrea! Help me in your name, and in the name of all the gods that have been worshipped by all the terrified superstitious and backward peoples that have blanketed this earth with their religious howlings and still blanket it. Help me in the name of all these hopelessly ignorant religions and in the name of all their equally contemptible priests! Help me move ahead here a little, Andrea, so this narrative is not bogged down in tedious scenes about business dealings and surprising fire alarms in order to sustain credibility.

One other thing, Andrea, is that there can be no more repetitious dialogues with that sweet-tempered Mr. Sheen about a telephone call to Bertie. This narrative will be seriously weakened by repetitious dialogues. Mr. Sheen told you clearly he would not call Bertie and still you nagged him to call her. Your conversation went on much longer than it needed to. Even my mind began to wander. Why were you pestering him like that? Is that what you call caring about your job? Is that what your firm calls doing business?

On her drive back to the office after meeting Mr. Sheen, Andrea worried she lacked enough knowledge about life to deal with the tenant problem Mr. Sheen had placed before her. Unconscionable as it sounds, Andrea had given no thought whatsoever to the tenants who lived in Bertie’s buildings. If Andrea had thought anything about this real-estate deal, she had thought only that she needed to talk to the owner to “get the ball rolling”, which was a popular office expression that takes no thought to say.

When Mr. Sheen mentioned the tenants to Andrea, and worse, much worse, told her that her questions would make the tenants fear they would lose their homes, Andrea had finally been reduced to silence. Thank goodness she was is what I say. But had she been better suited for her job and tougher, Andrea would have answered Mr. Sheen’s doe-eyed tenant concern with some bland reassurances that she was not that kind of heartless person and her firm was not that kind of heartless firm.

“The tenants will be taken care of fairly, Mr. Sheen!” she would have said. “Of course they all will be taken care of! That should be understood but in case there is a question, I personally guarantee you I will see to their needs myself. I’ll give you my cell phone number.”

Some kind of mellifluous, educated and principled-sounding sentences like those would have resonated nicely through Andrea’s clear green eyes. If she had been suited to her job, and toughened to it, Andrea would have known how to soften Mr. Sheen slowly with a few truths and half-truths. Such assurances eventually may even have satisfied someone as wisely suspicious of the business world, and especially the white-man’s business world, as the sixty-five year old Mr. Seaton Sheen.

But Andrea lacked the willingness to claim a deal immensely lucrative to her firm was equally lucrative to the tenants when it was not. So instead of responding to Mr. Sheen’s soft-eyed tenant concern and keeping that silly-sounding development “ball” rolling, Andrea had felt ashamed of herself and been reduced to a reflective silence.

This reflective silence soon developed into the worry that her firm had placed her in a business deal that cheapened her as a human being. Andrea worried that by trying to buy Bertie’s apartments and sell them at a profit her firm and she as well were despicable.

End of writing number 23



My mother told me on a few significant occasions that I had to “toughen my skin”. I listened to her each time with a mixture of gratitude and astonishment, convinced her advice was half-cooked and yet if I did not follow it, I would continue to be a thin-skinned troubled mess and in time would develop into nothing but an older thin-skinned troubled mess.

Coming home one evening drunk after a day of cab-driving and four hours in a bar with my cab-driving pals, I sat on the stoop sick to my stomach and my mother sat a few feet away looking at me perplexed.

“I don’t know what else you expect to happen to you if you’re going to drink in bars after work like that, Claude,” she said mildly.

I shook my head silently that she was right and it was fine with me for her to be right because I was sick-to-my-stomach drunk and she was not. Certainly her voice was soothing.

But my mother must have taken my drunken head-shaking silence as an encouragement because she added muscularly, “You need to learn how to drink! That’s your problem, Claude. You need to learn how to hold your liquor. My father could drink!”

“Your father didn’t live too long though, did he,” I could answer drunk as I was because I knew his story.

“He died digging the foundation for a house with just a pick and shovel!” my mother declared proudly. “He’d had a heart attack. He was only fifty-five. But he worked hard and he played poker drinking whiskey with his friends and he smoked cigars. No wonder his heart gave out.

“He never let a priest in the house. Never! My poor mother was so upset she would tremble whenever one knocked on our door. But he wouldn’t budge. My father hated priests. He said they were hypocrites and they preyed on the ignorant. That’s the kind of man he was!”

We sat a while in silence until my mother became convinced that my problem was not only that I did not know how to drink liquor like her father but that my skin was too thin.

“You need to develop a thicker skin,” she said. “You need a skin as thick as a donkey’s. You need to toughen yourself up, Claude.”

That was the trouble with my silences when I expressed them to anyone: I never meant much by these silences other than a vague and passing helplessness which would soon right itself usually and find a word. But my companions, whoever they might be including my mother, took these silences as a sign of a bottomless incapacity.

According to my companions, in the days when I still had companions, my silences were asking for their help and, if their help proved insufficient to rouse me to speak, then my continued silence was asking for a good nasty reprimand.

My mother lingered with me on the stoop, her elbows on her knees her chin cupped in her hands, a sweet-tempered and practical person usually, doing the best she could to drive what she considered sense into my drunken head. She wanted me to develop a thick skin, a skin thick as donkey hide that would do the minimum a skin was supposed to do, that is to protect the person in it.

But I refused to thicken my skin, despite my mother’s well-intentioned advice, and I still refuse to thicken it even today when I am finally able to. Somehow I had suspected back then, sitting drunk with my mother, that thickening my skin to protect my difficult self would make me numb.

But how lucky I was to have someone to turn to for advice when my thin skin was failing me and I was overwhelmed! How lucky to have my mother’s sober advice, even though many more times than not her advice was either unasked for, wrong-headed, or useless, much like the advice I used to give until people wisely stopped talking to me.

On her drive back to the office after meeting Mr. Sheen, Andrea wished she had someone down-to-earth and sensible like my mother to whom she could turn for advice. But Andrea knew no one to whom she could speak about Mr. Sheen or about any other personal difficulty.

Andrea was troubled but she did not know why because she was still unable to accept how thoroughly unsuited she was for the world of buying and selling and renting property, especially property that people lived in. Andrea still did not know that real-estate deals like Bertie’s apartments were impossible for her. Andrea still did not appreciate that there was something in her that cared deeply about another’s suffering and that she had to shield this caring side of her from the hard-eyed commercial world if she wanted to go on living.

But why should Andrea make an effort to learn who she was since her good looks charmed most people? At this point in her life, Andrea never suspected that when she spoke, people listened to her not because they were interested in what she said but because she was sexy and youthful and pleasing to look at.

Occasionally Andrea had glimpsed people’s attention fading around her. But she had thought that was just how some people were and that their fading attention had nothing to do with what she had been saying to them, and certainly nothing to do with the fact that she had been boring them.

It worried Andrea too that she had failed to do the simple job her office had sent her to do which was to make personal contact with the owner. Andrea had no idea how she would explain Mr. Sheen’s statements to Dan her boss without making Bertie’s apartments sound like the disreputable business deal it was. But instead of searching for solutions to these difficulties like a professional, Andrea’s mind wandered to thoughts about Mr. Sheen.

Andrea felt she had traveled back in time to a maddeningly frustrating world that before today she had believed no longer existed except in fairy tales. Thinking back over her conversation with Mr. Sheen, Andrea felt pleased at having met a man who sneered at money grubbers and who preferred to live in a world of his own choosing, however frayed and inefficient.

Mr. Sheen’s inefficient world, so Andrea had believed before today, ought to have been dismantled long ago by bustling middle-class people like her boss Dan and the other brokers in his office: middle-class people who were convinced they had serious real-estate work to do, who were convinced absolutely in the rightness of their serious real-estate work, and who were single-mindedly determined to get that serious real-estate work done and generally did get it done, let their opposition be a so-called anachronism like Mr. Seaton Sheen, or let the opposition be whatever it might be.

End of writing number 24



My mother has now appeared chatting with me on a stoop and just when I had begun finally to write about Andrea. I could hope that my mother’s appearance was just a bizarre coincidence, but that is a hope based on fear, I know. I have no time now for fear nor for hope, not with Andrea and my mother walking around saying whatever they want. Now I need to be concerned how to keep my mother and Andrea separated.

On the surface, distinguishing Andrea from my mother should be simple and straightforward since Andrea is good looking and immensely fuckable and my mother is dead. But the surface, the surface, very little of interest goes on up there. It is inside the darkness of my skull, in that darkness where shapes and sexes and age and youth and even the living and the dead are hard to distinguish, if distinguishable at all, that I have to keep my dead mother separate from Andrea. One way to separate them would be to isolate them physically, if I proved able to isolate them in this narrative and they would respect my borders, both of which are doubtful.

I have had one definite sign that distinguishes Andrea from my dead mother: when I first wrote about Andrea, I picked a bloody mark on my forehead but when I just wrote about my dead mother I was not driven to pick myself. Perhaps I can use that forehead picking to guide me so when I pick myself bloody, I am definitely writing about Andrea. One problem with that approach, unfortunately, is that the last few times I have written about Andrea, I have not picked my forehead.

But maybe my dead mother will stay out of this narrative. Maybe my dead mother appeared just this once to chat with me and will not appear again. There is a chance my dead mother will not reappear I suppose, though what am I to do if she does? What am I supposed to do with my dead mother when she comes knocking about in my head? Ignore her? Wish she was dead? She already is dead. I need to make my dead mother feel welcome, that at the very least is what I need to do.

I am crawling out of my skin, the skin that in all these years of living in it I have never made my own. When I finish crawling, there may be nothing left of me but a hollow casing with a dried-up face.

But perhaps I will never finish crawling out of this skin that was put on me, however determined I am to discover my own life. Instead, I will drag the empty shell of my life after me like so many others drag theirs, getting through life as best we can, vaguely dishonest, intermittently dissatisfied and unsure, and without understanding enough.

End of writing number 25



It is not easy for me to write about my mother but then it is not easy for me to write about anything. My first wet dream was about my mother. I may have mentioned that wet dream to her though I doubt it, but who knows, who knows what any of us will say spontaneously sometimes?

I am certain I would not have had that wet dream if someone had taken a few moments out of his or her schedule to teach me to masturbate, gently but clearly. The terrible truth is I did not masturbate until I was eighteen so damp sheets and soggy underpants were familiar morning companions to my mid-teenage years. I was fourteen when I had that wet dream about my mother though the dream was an innocent one, believe that or not.

My mother was standing somewhere picturesque and isolated, on a beach in front of a dark gray ocean or in a wheat field golden at harvest time, I cannot remember truly, but the sun shone behind her which made her glow. She stood facing me though I could not see her face, her arms raised toward me beckoning me to come to her.

Perhaps I knew she was my mother from her figure but more telling to me is that I knew her as my mother from the inward sense I had of her. Those who know what it means to have an inward sense of someone will know what I am referring to. Those who claim not to have an inward sense will not. As I ran up to her, my mother half-stooped down to gather me in her arms, but I ejaculated before I reached her and woke up.

Many young males must have this wet dream though I cannot say so confidently as that wet dream has never been discussed at any dinner I attended nor in any classroom during all my many years in schools. The part of the wet dream I was most pleased with was my reaction when I awoke, my underpants sopping wet of course and sticking to my thighs. My state of mine was peaceful, yes it was a peaceful state of mind, and also, and this was extremely important to me that morning, my state of mind was absolutely without self-reproach. Instead, my mind was filled with wonder. It may not have been wonder that I experienced but I have no other word.

One other story about my mother and me and then I should be able to return to the work of writing this narrative. One more story about my mother and I should be able to rest again from my mother and she from me, so I believe.

It was during my years at home, in the years when I did not know what to do with myself while all around me people knew what to do with themselves and had put their heads down and were doing it. They were doing it god damn it, like what they were doing or not.

We took long walks my mother and I in the evening after dinner. There was nothing noteworthy about these walks, just walks as a way to close the day before my mother sat herself in front of the television and I trudged up the stairs to read.

On our walks together my mother often used to chat. She felt silences hostile, which shows how different we were, and I would listen to her enough so she did not feel I wished her quiet because I did not wish her quiet. What I wished was she would say what ever she wanted to say precisely and from a need to say it.

She chatted this evening about an American politician that many people detested. My mother certainly detested him and if someone asked me whether I detested him I would have come around sooner or later to say that yes, I did.

My mother called this detestable politician “disgusting”. When I remained silent, she repeated twice more that he was “disgusting” and when still I remained silent, she challenged me by demanding whether I did not think he was disgusting also.

I thought my mother’s criticism empty-headed but I did not tell her so. Instead, I told her she was using “disgusting” incorrectly. I told my mother that this politician was something other than disgusting, because to me the word disgusting described someone who while masturbating in the shower stuck his middle finger in his ass and then smelled his finger. The smelling of the middle finger, that act, I told my mother, was disgusting.

At this definition of disgusting, my mother emitted a sound I had never heard before, a sound that was half a moan and half a shriek, that is the best way I can describe it, but low, as if, as if she had been struck in her stomach and clubbed on her head at the same time. It was a sound buried under centuries of civilization, a sound that had long ago fallen into disuse.

But that sound still lay there waiting if ever a moment came again that was able to wrench away the meaningless noise of modern life and leave a person standing simple and alone and without a language to face the incomprehensible.

I considered that one of the more memorable communications my mother and I had on the many pleasant walks we took together during those nights and those years when, with everyone I knew busy building careers for themselves and, with my father dead, I stayed by myself to read old books, my mother watched the news on television, and we kept each other gentle company.

End of writing number 26