Excerpt from Channel Insomnia: 1996

Everything in Channel Insomnia has been written with fewer than five hours of sleep. I did this today, working with a whopping three.

1996

My boss is wearing leather pants. She and her husband are sharing what most would call a midlife crisis, and what she calls remaining attractive. It hadn’t occurred to me to remain attractive post fifty; I figured as soon as your skin started sliding the best course of action was surrender.

 

Those two have something worked out, and it involves shopping at stores with exclamations for names alongside teenagers trying too hard. There’s something delightful about this, like the garments are finally being assigned their appropriate owners instead of stumbling into someone for more of the same. No adolescent body can own such accents; either there’s too much insecurity crossing arms over chest and slouching posture, or it’s all on display and the vultures are circling. Even a legit complement must be chased with another layer of something colored and bottled and chemical filled applied to hide what isn’t even there to conceal.

 

Really, adolescence is simmering, and everyone young should know it. High school is prescribed to vacuum the intelligence and beauty from your being and 19 is set to restore it.

 

And really, like my boss I’d say, you gotta be grown to own it.

 

She in turn doesn’t say anything about the transparent clothing I wear without even noticing, and the unclassified insect infecting my eyes. This is a new world, one where I’m suddenly eating food with ingredients I can pronounce that arrives hot and aromatic and without foil covering.  When a sound like a shot rings out it probably isn’t one. There’s a reason for going outside, other than to get to your car and to summon new complaints. There’s nothing to buy and I don’t miss it. Still, the startled expression translates to action and people with faces I can’t immediately read are trying to dissect what’s hidden. That’s mine. It’s in this place that I first consider snakes, as the sounds of coyotes bounce from hill to hill, chased by the returned cries of humans.

 

Her eyes track my descent, and fear of seeing one dim in my direction makes me a weaver of ladders.

 

My boss, she’s got scrolls of stories to unfurl. How she’s seen ‘O Brother Where Are Thou?’ too many times and is still going again next weekend. How the Kent State Massacre was a something that slid all over the country and made for strange days in Ohio. Boiling grief over the ongoing mass sacrifice of young men caramelized into a single incident. Being young then, boasting a body able to haul 50 pound bags of grain. Now she just wants someone to sexually harass her for God’s sake. She wants to retire with working heart and limbs. She’ll leave the work force before it leaves everyone else.

 

I wonder if the exclamation stores still find her. If her blackberry pie is still the best of them. If she knows it would still strip my insides to disappoint her, and that my clothes are soon slated for leather.

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