I WOKE UP AFTER ELEVEN TODAY with a mouth full of sleep. I turned the TV on loud so I could hear it in the bathroom while I brushed my teeth and my tongue. I can't get local channels on our satellite, so the news comes from New York City. Today police have motor and pedestrian traffic blocked on 34th Street west of Madison Avenue because icicles fell from the radio tower at the top of the Empire State Building. One of them pierced the skull of a beggar. He died instantly. The dry way the newsgirl described the incident frightened me.
Everything frightens me.
My left ear started ringing while I brushed my teeth (in circles: clockwise twelve times; counterclockwise twelve times), and it harmonized with the clanging of the wind chimes on the back porch. I smacked the butt of the palm of my hand against the side of my head a couple times. It kind of quit.
I rinsed my toothbrush in steaming hot water, turned off the TV and turned on my internet radio. I like internet radio because it's not likely to play music that makes me nervous. I feel like it's my friend. It knows me. It plays things it thinks I will like. It's usually spot on.
The last time I listened to FM radio, the station was playing that Carrie Underwood song in which she carves her name into the leather seats of her boyfriend's truck and then beats the hell out of it with a baseball bat before slashing his tires. She does all of this under the pretense of saving the next girl the trouble. I have a nice old piece of shit car with four bald tires, and I don't cheat on my girlfriend, but that song makes me nervous anyway.
It makes me nervous because my girlfriend likes it. She was humming along with it while she did her dishes last Tuesday evening. I was drying. My towel was soaked, and I snapped it, folded it over the oven handle. I got a clean, dry towel out of the drawer and I asked her, "You like this song?"
She said, "Yeah. Why?"
"Well, have you actually listened to the lyrics? It's kind of." I searched for the right words. "Violent. If you pay attention."
I saw the skin tighten at the nape of her neck, her shoulder blades stiffen. She moved with such grace that I wanted to kiss her, but I could tell she was aggravated with me. I knew she was about to twist my words into a careful knot. "Are you insinuating that I don't pay attention?"
"No, I just wondered why you would." I swallowed my words, rethought my question. "I wondered what it was about it. It's a little dark." I didn't finish my thought. I stared down at my towel, at the damp spots. All we had left to do were the coffee cups.
"It's a fun song. And it's a song." She said song like she was talking to somebody who didn't understand English. "That's all it is."
She pushed flyaway hairs out of her face with her wet hands, leaving suds on her right ear. I heard the little sizzles of the bubbles bursting, dying into invisibility.
Also by Cindy Kelly Benabderrahman
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When I Die:
by Michael Gillan Maxwell
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