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--- P A T R I C K   K E L L Y

They stare at their open books not to find answers but to avoid my gaze, my incessant inquiry, as if I were the retarded cousin at a funeral.

I want to help you but this is our job. Reading this brings us together, so help me. That's what I've been told.

This is not good, one says, it is cynical and disrespectful to the characters, disrespectful to the reader. It is irrelevant and not fair to us. We should read something life affirming.

Listen to me. I am in a foreign country whose tongue I can barely wrap my lips around, a land of hair dyed the color of a rusted bucket. I am married to irrelevance, and nothing is more unfair. You will read these stories because they are unfair and have no relevance to you. When I teach I talk to myself while you listen, and the only one who learns is me, and what I learn is that grave errors are made in times of despair, and despair is all my watch reads.

If nothing else, learn this fact: life consumes you in small bits and morning brings with it only the hope that maybe this will all end soon. The world is an overpriced ticket to a bad jazz concert where only the bassist and drummer bothered to show. The shops all closed fifteen minutes ago and the money in your pocket is as worthless as the apology from your drunken girlfriend when she cannot remember where she's been all night. You take her in and she sleeps it off

while you seethe endlessly in the brittle silence. Imperceptibly the distance around you becomes the distance between you,

but from the awful radio comes a song you know, a song that sounds like home, and

out the window the spruce tree is holding fresh snow. Every story is irrelevant, every person who sleeps beside you has lied,

but there in the dark, it all disappears and you can hardly sense the coming and going as your wish to be consumed comes true.

© crossconnect 1995-1999 |
published in association with the |
university of pennsylvania kelly writers house |