by Jeremy Nathan Marks
I am forty and have never found any woman who would have me.
I once puzzled over how, despite my smarts, I wouldn’t be caught dead pushing paper in a firm or racking my brains to make a diagnosis. The thought of attending conferences dedicated to specialized knowledge makes me nauseous. Instead, I read things I find like wrappers and make collages out of trash. I tell fortunes from the grounds of edible plants. It’s called writing.
At night on my cot, I envision porcelain cups, sugar dispensers, and how many glasses of water a man can order without actually ordering anything. I dream in canvases of yellow mustard, relish green, and Heinz red. In my sketchbook, I have a man sleeping on a bed of sugar packets with white paper napkins for his blankets. Of such kingdoms do I dream.
There is only one diner downtown for visionaries like me. They let me come around daily and order my usual: Two and a half saccharine packets and six cups of joe. I scribble away for some hours then go off and make my rounds, returning after dark to do it again.
The wait staff is very nice about all of this. My waitress makes the sweetest non-verbals with me. A slight tick of the head, upward thrust of the chin, that delicate way she sets down a saucer. Probably somewhere near my age, she wears no wedding band. Not once has she asked what I am writing or where I’ve been. Never glances over my shoulder when she pours. Shows no signs of repetitive stress disorder. Experience dictates that when you know where you don’t fit you keep quiet where you do.
Recently, my dreams have started to change. I had for the first time a Christmas dream. It takes place on the one day each year that I stay away. I don’t know whether the diner is open, closed, or keeping shorter hours. I imagine the place to be an Edward Hopper-style establishment where cops must take fruit cake and egg nog instead of donuts and coffee.
I can see myself lying on the pavement beneath the tule as people pass over me. No one notices my presence, not even the police. At some point, the waitress finds me and she has brought the coffee and we drink it, our breath blending with the tule to form a thick canopy. The caffeine loosens me up but we never actually speak. She is dressed for work.
When I got up the morning after there was tule and when I went in for my usual, the waitress wasn’t there. I sat and I scribbled and noticed the Help Wanted posting on the door. For the first time, I ordered something baked: a slice of pie. I had them box it and then I ate it out in a lot I know. I lied down, looked up, and lost myself in the mist. The tule swirled overhead like cream.
The reason I hate my body
My mother is like every woman I have met of her generation. She will defer on the subject of war but consistently counsels peace. In college, my professor called this phenomenon ‘Mother Earth chastises Father Sky.’ Raised on Dr. Spock, he married one of his students.
My college girlfriend wore boots to her knees long before knee boots resumed popularity. She wouldn’t sport any fabric that clung to her less than I. We both took the professor’s class and she said ‘I am Artemis and you are Actaeon.’ Our romance was a series of daily deaths but she was immortal.
As one magazine said: “No one has to find you sexy.”
I would be lying if I told you that no one has. I receive regular looks from the pregnant and neglected. When the women at my firm ranked their peers, I came in second. On a trip south, I was hit on by a grandmother pentecostal, not five years my senior.
Recently, when I sat shiva in a house with covered mirrors, I didn’t miss viewing my body. In the near dark, I wrote a story about a man living Godless among the Hebrews. I have him report that the staff Moses used to strike the rock to quench their great thirst actually was a phallus.
Women are more beautiful than men. I know this since I always pray for peace and a man’s bones are a blunt means. Nor do I hate my body because I practice abstinence. I am not unsexed. I simply feel that anything perishing by fire, languishing in betrayal, or demanding release from death is meant to be lost.
Jeremy Nathan Marks is based in London, Ontario. Recent fiction, poetry, and photography appear/will be appearing in Unlikely Stories, The Blue Nib, KYSO Flash, Ottawa Arts Review, Microfiction Mondays, Lethe Magazine, Mosh Lit, Alien Buddha, Writers Resist, Poets Reading The News, Verse of Silence, Poetry Pacific, Bold + Italic, The Local Train, As It Ought To Be, and Stories of the Nature of Cities.