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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

the drifter

Johnny Cash is on, playing "I'm a Drifter", and I'm working on a Sunday afternoon. Little E has set up a village of dolls next to me, barking orders, pronouncing made-up names with little flourishes. The cat is sleeping between my bare feet.

Got no one to call my own no more.
Got no strings to tie me down.
Got no cause to hang around.
What difference does it make, which way I go?

I hear some noise from upstairs. It's not the workers in the hallway, dropping paint cans, chipping away at broken tiles on the floor.

I'm a drifter,
A lonesome drifter.

No, it's the steady creak of a bed, thumping against a wall. You can hear them, if you filter out the other sounds. He is talking to her in a low voice. She makes a sort of squeal and then a short moan.

I pour myself a glass of water and watch the tiny bubbles rising.

Got no place to call my own no more.
I'm a wanderer,
A lonesome wanderer.

E looks up at me. She's happy, playing restaurant, completely in her own world. The cat rolls onto my slipper, looking for an even better sleeping place. I wonder if I'll ever get the chance to take my guitar out of its case and write a new song like I used to on days like this. I used to get takeout Chinese food from Mee Fun on 1st Avenue and 13th street on Sunday afternoons, standing in line watching the steam paint the windows, the soup guys splashing broth over the wontons, sipping tea from giant plastic takeout cups, sometimes looking me in the eye, recognizing me.

She repeats her sounds - an unchanging cycle. I can't listen to them any more.

Staring at my hands, I close my eyes and listen to my own breathing. I force myself to smell Spring coming. I remember how I would split a long piece of grass and hold it between my lips when I was a boy. I think of women I have known on quiet afternoons like those people upstairs. I think of a little bedroom with the lights off. Her giant white comforter is luminous on a rainy day as I kiss her shoulder and ask her if she's getting hungry. That was a long time ago. She has a child of her own now.

I wish those guys would start working in the hallway again.

Who can know what waits beyond this road?



brenda said…
f'ing genius. not just phrases like "steam painting the windows" but the way it wanders, M; the way it drifts. E, the couple upstairs, the Chinese joint, a kid blowing through a blade of grass. ALL within such a tiny, perfectly structured piece. With the song at the very end. Marvelous.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing this link, but unfortunately it seems to be down... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please reply to my post if you do!

I would appreciate if a staff member here at could post it.

Rabbit blogger said…
jules - saw your comment although for some reason google doesn't like showing it. i checked and everything plays fine all the way in Moscow. That version of the drifter is just johnny & guitar off of American Outtakes. it's my favorite version of that song. he recorded this one at least 4 different ways.
Anonymous said…

This is a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at

Can I use part of the information from your post above if I give a backlink back to your site?

Rabbit blogger said…
jules - -please post or send me your email! let's see if we can organize a backlink.

best -

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