The dog barking woke her up and she cursed its little yappy mouth while reaching for the light switch. It couldn’t have been later than four in the morning and what was the little thing doing making so much noise, there better be a good reason. And yes, there it was, the clock ticking on the wall, it showed the time: 4:45. Dark and empty outside, except for the noise of the dog barking, filling the air with its rancor, filling her stomach with sickness, filling her mouth with hot angry words. She cursed Mrs. Thomson, cursed the shitty duplex with its blistering walls and thin cheap windows, cursed the fact that she was thirty-four and still had to wake up to this kind of shittiness, and worse yet, had to do it alone in a twin-sized bed without a companion who she could cling to and whine to and generally float with in this sacredfuckedup situation. She imagined roasting the dog on a spit and then felt the hot dizzy feeling of shame because, after all, she loved animals, she even loved this dog most of the time, but her brain ached and her stomach hurt and she just couldn’t deal with this bullshit right now, it was goddamn 4:45 in the morning.
(The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg, pg. 93)
She did not look at the man sitting below her because she was aware that he was staring up at her, like a dog, and she wasn’t sure what he looked like, but he was probably god awful, probably had a goatee or some fuzzy facial hair, and she could feel his glance on her. She knew he was watching her not because she could see him out of the corner of her eyes but because there was that prickly knowledge that comes whenever somebody is watching. She had been completely unaware of everybody around her, full of the music, just watching the sight in front of her, when she knew, just knew in that way that always presents itself. She could feel him looking at her and she wasn’t sure if it was a friendly look or leering, it really didn’t matter because it was unwelcome all the same, so she stared ahead and purposefully scrunched her forehead hoping that he would see that she was too enraptured in the music to notice or care for his presence.
(The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg, pg. 92)
Prior to my jesus experience I was desperate for some kind of human attention. I needed to feel the light of somebody’s sight or thought. I needed to be heard or seen or, for chrissakes, just fucking noticed. Maybe because I was lonely, or maybe because I was too lazy to get out and make real friends, I began to go to church. It was down the street from my apartment and I walked past it one Friday after work and was struck by the heavy wooden doors. I wondered if they were cold to the touch. Maybe because it was hot as fuck outside and I was tired of walking. I just wanted something cold to drink, I just wanted a break from the heat. So I walked up the steps and touched the doors and they were icy, shockingly cold, and it was like a religious experience in and of itself. And I wondered if I could feel something even more exciting and notable if I just went inside. So I did and the place was empty but it was so cold, so cool, and I saw that they had pools of water inside, and I imagined all the seats taken by holy people, religious people, the kind of people that always had a place to be on Sunday and maybe the kind of people who brought each other casseroles when the going got rough. I didn’t know if there was a place to sign up or get onboard, I just knew that I wanted to be there, especially because I had this grand plan that maybe one day I would be up there on that little stage in the front and everybody in the room, seats packed, would see me and notice me and maybe clap for me. Do people clap in churches? I didn’t know, but I wanted it.
(Meeting Faith by Faith Adiele, pg. 265)
For a full day she sat beside the window and looked, glanced, pretended to be busy, pretended not to look, blinked her eyes and peeked through the blinds through heavily mascaraed lashes. When would he come? When would he show up? She cursed his schedule acrimoniously. Why couldn’t he ever stick to a goddamned time? Then she could have at least known when to expect his little truck, little shorts, little bald head. She felt like a fool. Why was she waiting for this little man? Everything little, everything miniature and hairless, and yet somehow, in some bizarre tingling way, attractive. Almost desperately so.
(Meeting Faith by Faith Adiele, pg. 264)
I glance up, half expecting to see him sitting in front of me, lounging on the chair like he used to, like it is completely natural for him to be back in my house, back in my life, back in this world. We said goodbye to him three years ago and I want to believe that he is resting happily underground, maybe in heaven if there is such a thing, maybe just comfortably being eaten by happy worms, but I’m still not sure. I still feel his presence there.
(Meeting Faith by Faith Adiele, pg. 263)
What will she come up the stairs looking like tonight? Mermaid gown? Robe and cowboy boots? She comes home looking like a goddamn fool half the time and I don’t even know what to say. I’m not sure if I should tell her to get changed, go to bed, or just sigh. Most nights I just sigh. A few nights ago she told me that I’m living in a fantasy world and that she is just living out her reality. I didn’t know what to make of that and asked if she was on drugs. She laughed in my face for what felt like minutes. I just looked at her, waiting to see if she would stop. I’m not sure what to do about this girl, this stranger. She was once inside of me. She grew within me, she was nourished by parts of me, she ate me, but I look at her now and wonder if she’s just a random person come in from off the street. I don’t remember doing this with my mother. I hated my mother for a period of a few years, was convinced that she was an awful, selfish person. We screamed at one another, hated each other, ignored each other, but the strangeness was enacted through emotion and never progressed so far as to encapsulate my physicality. I literally look at my daughter and cannot recognize the face looking back at me. The only way I can tell that it is indeed her is the sardonic roll of the eyes and her long long fingers.
(Meeting Faith by Faith Adiele, pg. 216)
Any human being he ran across was likely to be an enemy before long.
(Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, pg. 72)
Alone on the roof, Louis could finally catch a breath and think about what it meant to be in-between. They kept asking him that. How do you feel? What’s coming next? What’s on the agenda? Like he had a clue. They expected him to know what was coming. They expected him to have planned something. But he wasn’t even sure if he would have enough money to pay rent this month. He wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to balance his food budget enough so that beer wouldn’t outweigh ramen. And when Annabelle started talking about her wedding, the baby, all of that really sent him over the edge. He couldn’t breathe for a moment. Hot and thick, the air was caught in his throat. Couldn’t imagine this girl, his one-time love, off in this world where she was giving birth and making vows. He couldn’t understand that he was in this world where babies, well almost-babies, not yet real adults at least, like her were making more babies. When would it end? Would he be at a party in three years and hear the barely literate child, no longer in its mother’s almost-married womb just barely, pontificating upon the virtue of work ethic and the excitement of growing old? Would he forever be the old man who hadn’t yet decided to take a plunge and do something? He imagined himself, seventy years old, still living in his parents’ basement.
But there’s nothing wrong with that, nothing so wrong with staying close to your family. They do it in other cultures, don’t they? Why do we have to be so goddamn obsessed with moving on and moving out, independence? Upper middle class maturity as marked by proximity from one’s parents. He thought of the suitcase under his bed, worried that he might have to pack it soon. Imagined it moved to his childhood bedroom, now a home gym home office atrocity, and felt himself gagging. Maybe he just swallowed the shrimp too fast. What would he do when he wanted to get laid? He prickled at the thought of stifling sighs and moans and asking a woman to leave in the night so that he wouldn’t have to ward away his mother in the morning. What if she tried to make them pancakes?
(Call it Sleep by Henry Roth, pg. 300)
That is why the first kiss is always a fantasy, whether or not it ever even happens. The girls sit in Kate’s room and whisper to one another, hoping that Steven isn’t listening through the thin wall, making plans and giggling to one another. They have hopes that seem grand right now, but in the whole scheme of things are actually quite modest. They just want to get kissed and they just want somebody to think about them right before falling asleep. They just want to wake up in the morning and look at themselves in the mirror and like what they see. They don’t even have to love it, just like it. They share these wishes.
But poor Rebecca just can’t seem to shake this feeling that she wants the kiss from somebody Kate would never guess. Can’t shake the hope that Kate is the one thinking about her right before falling asleep. Have you ever kissed anybody before, she asks her best friend. And Kate laughs, of course not, you know that, have you? No, no, but I wonder, will we be terrible if we’ve never done it? And she wants to see if maybe they can practice with each other, just a few times, just to make sure that they aren’t disgusting and horrible at it. And maybe they could practice with tongues, just once, just in case.
(Meeting Faith by Faith Adiele, pg. 72)
That what seems so vital may in fact be silly, frivolous, a waste of time. The body moves on, the clock ticks forward, and once when I was sixteen I fell asleep for fifteen hours and nobody could wake me up. It wasn’t a coma, it wasn’t anything but exhaustion from moving and growing and ticking and stretching. It was the exhaustion that comes from holding up your head, neck tired from the strain of expectations. Did you know that you are not yourself without the backdrop of a million cells all put into place before you were born? That you are not yourself without the plans your parents made for you before you were conceived? You lived in the mind then, and sometimes you still do now.
(Listener in the Snow by Mark Statman, pg. 81)