12 April 2010 | Vol. 10, No. 1

Ten Birthdays

– after SH

Sitting on the porch in Vermont, writing a letter to you. I described a transcendental drip from the ceiling, its splash.

Standing on the playground at Hardee Elementary after school, a ring of five 10-year-old girls spinning around me chanting, "Brainwash! Brainwash!" like zombies—it was a game to make you dizzy, you'd try to get outside but they'd keep chasing you.

I went to the COOP bookstore, one of my lovelorn activities, feeling primed and uncoupled, looking for a new book. I remember thinking that those activities were meant for someone more sorry or docile than me.

I drove my truck across groomed Texas to an enormous crucifix, the biggest one in the nation. I was alien, terrified. I'd gone there with a purpose but arrived to find the place barren. A cop drove by. I turned back on to the highway.

Lying on the floor of the place we'd just moved to in Portland—B. and I—listening to CDs, there was nothing there but the two of us, and the music.

I handed in my thesis, had my committee meeting, defended it, my rock band played a show, and I went back to my room and had lots of sex with L., my girlfriend at the time. I think we loved each other but we never admitted it. There was a thing approaching love between us. I would get in her red Volvo and we'd go for night drives along the farm fields. I memorized very clearly our last night—we went to a silly party and going home together was important. We slept on a red futon, after making the blankets over. I made her a paper mâché of photos.

Nightclub in Barcelona on New Years, with J. and A. I'd been overseas for a few months. It was a massive nightclub and I waited for a very long time for a drink. I kept dancing even when the lights came on.

The depths of my delicious stately depression. I'd go for walks and watch the same swans move sideways across a small canal. There were neon lights. I walked the riverbank, looking for rats.

In my room, trying to write. My French family got me a huge print of a clown—they thought I was depressed. That Cat Power song came on with the words "must just be the colors" and I was hysterical for it, maneuvering the radio on the floor, feverishly trying to enjoy the moment of it, that sense of what I knew.

When she got attacked, it was her birthday. She was in a hospital bed, her face was completely ruined—it smelled like blood, all of her teeth were broken. Those little hospital slippers. She put her hand on my neck.

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About the author:

Emily Kendal Frey is the author of Airport (Blue Hour, 2009), The New Planet (Mindmade Books, 2010), and Frances (Poor Claudia, 2010). She lives in Portland Oregon.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Emily Kendal Frey at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 10, No. 1, where "Ten Birthdays" ran on April 12, 2010. List other work with these same labels: poetry, prose poem.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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