Frivolous Fairy Tales: Vivian Virtue Part I

There once was a woman named Vivian Virtue who lived in a pretty three-story apartment complex. And much to the horror of her older neighbors, Vivian was seen every night with a new man linking their arm with hers. The first week that the neighbors had noticed her habit they’d press their ears against shared walls, floors, or ceilings, wondering at the absence of unbecoming sounds they’d expected from an exuberant young woman such as her. After the first week of shameless snooping, they gave it up and went on with their lives. Only occasionally, if they ever crossed paths with her in a stairwell or hallway with a man attached to her hip, would they send her way a sneer of disgust. Thus, Vivian’s notoriety was cemented by her lack of Virtue.

One day, however, 60-year-old Martha who shared a wall with Vivian, was woken with a start. A loud thud had echoed from right beside her bed. Then came the muffled moans. It took a while for her to understand what was going on when her face was overcome by a deep flush. She was scandalized and vexed. Vivian was a fiend, Martha had always known, but she had simply ignored the fact since the young lady had never exhibited her loose behavior. However, now that she had, Martha finally had her chance to give a harsh lecture to the young lady. One that she had been preparing since that first week of Vivian’s man-trapping days. 

Yes, Martha thought, it was time the youth learned a thing or two about propriety. 

To be continued . . .

aSoSS 17 | Intermission

How is St. Louis? Is it St. Louis-ing? Is it Arch-ing?

Ahmo’s, 6:00PM, 2/1/2024

the metro is a closed loop, a sleeping dragon. you point out one of the buildings, veins throbbing, heavy against the rain; the train squeals against the track and you are robbed of my reply, my sympathies, as if they would do anything but raise the hairs on your arm. what happens when you let stitches sit in too long? your skin shifts, a chameleon in twilight. the sun sets, the skin darkens. the leaf-rot smell of autumn returns, and i know you will not be around to watch the flowers bloom in the spring.

What if I get lost?

You’re not going to get lost, you just need to walk in a straight line. If you get lost, that’s on you.

Markley Hall, 3:00PM, 2/8/2024

the world is full of lines, hard and soft, good and bad. sometimes the world is grayscale, allowing me to sort everything into sets, rigid containers, labeled and discarded. road lines = good. scars = bad. cracks in doorways and mirrors and cement foundations? // then the world resumes in color, and the containers begin to spill. the cracks pile up, multiplying, threatening the edges of my vision. in trying to blend the lines, you erased the figure; in trying to straighten the branches, i destroyed the roots…

Nah, I could barely see it… don’t ask any questions about that night, I don’t remember any of it!

Mosher-Jordan Dining Hall, 1:30PM, 3/3/2024

we have learned to associate lack of memory with a good time. if something went south, we would remember it, right? the brain fills slowly, in hindsight, fabricating memories, forging alliances. you call it breaking down problems with a hammer and a drink. the worst punishment of all: force-fed my own thoughts until i choked them up and spit them out. my reality lives on, isolated, trapped like chac mool: free and fictitious ocean, only real when it imprisons a snail.

aSoSS 16 | Discipline

I proofread as I go, so it’s fine…but I wrote it at midnight so you tell me!

Pierpont Commons Lounge, 12:00PM, 11/14/2023

there is a perverse form of art in letting go of what you have created. eradication. the disconnect between writer and editor, a nurse ripping a sick baby away from a grieving mother. fatigue brings discontent and discontent accumulates like tar in the liver. my tongue forms a sentence and dies on my lips. my breath carries the corpses, hairs against needles, nails against plastic, floating through the air. is it poetry, or is it unspoken word?

Look, you went from not knowing anything, and you tried, and now you’re killing it!

Tech Shop, 11:00AM, 1/25/2024

goals should be driven by effort. using achievement to measure success is like orienting a telescope at the glare of a mirror. there will come a time where the sun sets and you are left with the shadows of the past. you will forget the sun rises the next morning, beautiful and breathtaking, as you struggle with an eternal night. the easiest way to believe something is permanent is to neglect the future. if you sit and stare at your feet during the train ride, you will think that you have never moved…

You studied, you put in the effort! There are going to be a lot of people in that room who know less than you…

Union Basement, 11:30AM, 2/19/2024

comparison is often the thief of joy, but sometimes we are dealing with a different type of thief. a reverse robin hood, stealing from the emotionally poor and feeding into the rich. what was once seen as a burden can be molded, reversed, shaped into an instrument. an instrument of what? intoxicated by our dreams. empty or not, our emotions still take up space, like a small glass jar wedged in the side of the temporal lobe. fill it up with sunshine and don’t look back.

aSoSS 15 | Shoot

Put your hands on your hips… one leg up… yeah!

You know how I do it? I don’t even take photos! I take a video and screenshot!

I take live photos!

Ichiban, 7:00PM, 11/11/2023

our strongest memories are linked by sounds and smells. the running exhaust, the radio leaking through the window, the heat gradient running up the side of my arm from the incandescent lightbulb. photos can only take us so far — they are shortcuts, figures without depth or dimension. try committing these words, this moment, this raindrop of time. let it disappear behind the veil. sights, smells, sounds, me and you. point, grip, pull the trigger.

You look at pictures of your relatives and that’s the only thing you know them by… when people only know you through photos, it’s important to be present.

Couzens Hall, 8:00PM, 1/24/2024

there is a bin of photos for sale at the scrap center, fifty cents per stacked inch. they are shaken out of albums and cards, tossed aside, ink yellowing in the sun. i look through them and i imagine you looking with me, behind my shoulder. i have no photos of you — deleted or neglected, i do not remember — but it does not matter. i think about going to art school so i can learn to draw your face. what force flows through a pencil when it etches the subconscious into reality?

Actually, I didn’t show my teeth because I was insecure, so I didn’t smile.

Glen/Catherine Inbound, 12:00PM, 2/18/2024

an insecure mouth suffocates laughter. it is a cinch, a noose, like being shushed as you are strangled. the snaggletooth peeks out and waves to the camera. your eagerness betrays you, but only for a second. your grandparents sit on the top of the fridge, tight-lipped, stone-faced. i’m sorry, you say. what for? i grab your hand as the shutter clicks. carved out of paper, nonetheless, but a smile preserved.

aSoSS 14 | Lover

I have two dogs, one of them’s a rescue. Because my own dog’s name is Daisy, I wanted to name him Gatsby–you know, from the book–

That’s so cute!

Yeah, but he doesn’t respond well to it, so we call him by the shelter name.

Walmart, 2:00PM, 12/12/2023

english has condensed a singularity into the word love, a tricky thorn in the theory that a language is able to encompass our feelings. thus we turn to pictures, worth their weight in words, yet still unsatisfactory. interpretive. a cupped palm, water dripping from the cracks. a crossword clue: what will i see if i look into the dog’s eyes? what will i see if i look into yours?

it is a clash of preshattered wills. he stands over the water, over a circle of light–a broken halo–scrapped from leftover sun. the green light blinks once, twice, and disappears.

He was with a girl. That’s why he pretends not to notice us.

Mosher-Jordan Dining Hall, 10:00AM, 11/25/2023

a burial is hypothetical, until it’s not. the relationships we forge are perfect to the ones that see it. mix up the recipe and it brews disaster, strong and seductive and fragrant. do not lose yourself in the pursuit of others–what if they do not exist? we are nothing but the brains that perceive, you and i. perhaps one day i will run into you, dear reader. perhaps we will part with nothing but a smile.

I don’t have a valentine! Maybe I should hit up my Michigan Marriage Pact…

Central Campus Transit Center, 7:00PM, 2/10/2024

no tax is placed on the mouth–talking pays no toll. rose between your lips, gum bleeding from the thorns… carry your tongue in cheek (yours or otherwise), a novelty, naked and unashamed. golden in the purest sense of the world. momentum carries you forward, up and above, standing on a slice of mountainside, hidden by a reef of red clouds. you will look back, breathless at your own audacity, at the world you created, at the richness of a newly vanished earth.

aSoSS 13 | Redundancy

What’s a spikeball?

It’s where you take the ball and you spike it, dear.

Scheels, 2:30PM, 1/6/2024

humans are attracted to circles. they are soft, rounded, happy. an evolutionary tactic, or implicit bias? you think it is the former, that round things are less likely to bite, that pointy things hurt. i tell you that bullets used to be round as well. perfect spheres, lodged into tree trunks and muscle mass and the soft dirt that buries it like a seed. one day it will grow into a beautiful tree, with orange-veined bark and branches that wrap arguments in cloth. they have a name for that today: weeping willow.

Donate it, it’s thirty-one cents. I don’t need thirty-one cents, I already have a lot of cents.

Chipotle, 2:00PM, 1/14/2024

when we dream, we do it by replacing sight with touch. eyes closed, mouth open, arms out…we have replaced shooting stars with coins and candles: a tangible dream, a manifestation we can hold. the flame, the spin of the metal, a drop of water in the rain. in the future there will be fables written about fountains: a thief robs the trevi, heart of rome, and must fulfill the desires each coin represents. thirty-one wishes? one for each day of the month. pennies on the dollar — the sun will shine once more.

Why do you ask odd questions?

Why do you give odd answers?

That’s an odd question!

The Shelter, 7:00PM, 1/28/2024

the politician, modern-day sphinx, speaks in riddles. the figure in the frame has glowing white teeth, slightly yellowed. perhaps it is from the elements or the urine of the minority, or perhaps it is intentional — picture the candidates among the common people, hardworking farmers, suntans and crooked teeth from where the wheat slips though the cracks. i imagine the paws of the sphinx cupping a palm of water, a vision of truth broken in ripples. slipping through the cracks, indeed.