Friday, February 20, 2015

Twelve Scenes From Other Worlds

 1. I live in a tiny cottage on the edge of a Nordic country. I am a widely celebrated poet who writes small, still paeans to the natural world. I have never had sex, and I never intend to; I am confident this will add to my mystique after I am dead. Instead, I pour my erotic attachments into odes to rounded fruits, thick glossy leaves, and gnarled root systems. I take long walks from my cabin into the fjords. One day, I am swept out to sea. There is a postage stamp in my honor.

2. I am part of a husband-and-wife real estate team. We are the most successful agents in the city, and we advertise that aggressively. We are photographed standing back-to-back, arms crossed, smiling warmly into the camera. My wife is naturally blonde, and my hair is the perfect shade of brunette. The colour costs nearly three thousand dollars each year to maintain. We write it off as a professional expense.

3. I am the mother of identical triplet girls. When they were babies, I wrote numbers on the soles of their feet with indelible marker. I insisted on giving them flowery, vaguely European names—Francesca, Angelina, Bianca—but despite my best efforts, two of them grew up to be lesbians. The third moved to Shanghai as a missionary, and doesn't speak to any of us.

4. I am a very successful artist living in New York City, where I'm part of a polyamorous "constellation" made up of other artists. Once a month, we have a live sex show, which always sells out. We deliberately serve crackers that I know taste terrible. The New Yorker once called me "the next Yoko Ono." Sometimes, I put on jeans and huge white sneakers, buy a bag of cherry-flavoured licorice, and I go to La Guardia and watch the planes take off.

5. I bartend. I have three earrings in each ear, and I chew a pack of gum each night. I have always been proud of my legs, and wear sheer black stockings and short skirts. When the pint glasses come out of the dishwasher, I polish each one by hand. At the end of the night, my hands smell like soap and stale beer, and I like that very much.

6. I was a child actor; now, I'm a Twitter sensation. I live in Los Angeles and tweet about traffic and watching sitcoms on TV, and for some reason, this is a huge hit. I'm invited onto late-night television, and offered a book deal. Later, I see this book at an remaindered bookstore at an outlet mall in Atlanta, Georgia, and my feelings are hurt.

7. I am a mid-level manager at an international firm. When I have an affair with a woman in another department, her personal assistant discovers our secret. I threaten to kill her if she tells anyone; terrified, she exposes us. My lover and I are both fired. When I am escorted out the building by security, I am holding a plant in a cardboard box. I realize I have seen this moment in a movie.

8. I am a stand-up comedienne. One night, after a show, a fellow comic slips a sedative into my drink and fondles my breasts in the green room. Seven months later, he is offered a pilot for a network. I tell no one about what happened.

9. I am an art therapist. I specialize in international child refugees who have escaped war zones. I hear about severed limbs, about burning houses, about bodies floating in rivers. During our sessions, the children draw these scenes for me. Later, I throw their pictures away. I never feel unconflicted about this, but I also know I can't keep a mountain of paper devoted to horror in my office. I drink a lot of white wine.

10. I am a radio producer. I spend three months in Antarctica, working on a story about isolation. I sit with a Czech marine biologist in a very hot sauna. We are both drunk and naked. After we are dizzy from the heat, we run outside wearing only thick white boots and a scarf. It is -100 degrees, which is colder than the moon. The steam rises from my body like a thick white cloud, and I see the aurora australis. I can't see the Czech in the darkness. I feel utterly abandoned, and this exhilarates me.

11. I am a grad student. My girlfriend lives on the other side of the country. We keep in touch by Skype, texting, and the occasional visit. I no longer know if I love her, or if I've grown accustomed to our arrangement. It occurs to me that I have never lived in a place longer than two years.

12. I work part-time at a gourmet deli, going in early to make rigorously healthy salads. In the afternoons, I write columns for several print and online publications. I am fast, thorough, and my editors adore me. I have two children, and a husband who is close enough to perfect that he sometimes seems like an alien who has learned how to be human by studying romantic comedies. In the evenings, I knit and volunteer for local non-profits. We do not have a backyard, but we live close to a park. I sleep horribly, and I never lost my baby weight. I am happy.

Image by Pat Perry via This is Colossal