By D. E. Fulford.
“i quickly learn the business and essentially run the office since the other rep is sick a lot and the agent almost never comes in. it’s mind-numbing, soul-crushing, deadening work and i loathe every second of every day, wishing i could float away into nothing at all which would be a decided improvement from being who i have become in the short span since graduation and what can only be considered real life.”
Pink Cowgirl by Igor Skaletsky.
2003: suck the marrow of me
1. this could be love, alkaline trio
2. hey ya, outkast
3. girl’s not grey, afi
4. a favor house atlantic, coheed and cambria
5. fall back down, rancid
6. son et lumière, the mars volta
7. the ghosts of me and you, less than jake
8. ocean avenue, yellowcard
9. are you gonna be my girl?, jet
10. feeling this, blink-182
even in my darkest days, i’ve never been a rabbit.
pliable and warm, soft and terrified—trapped. always cornered; always shying from jaws of ruin and almost never escaping into the nearby safety grass net burrow of hiding. that’s not me. i’ve never been a rabbit.
i’ve been casually modeling now for about three years and it’s fun. before we relocated, mama tricked me into thinking i would enjoy moving to colorado by telling me she would get me into modeling in boulder—it sounded so posh and extravagant, a faraway dream only realized in a remote rocky mountain place for a little girl with twisted teeth who couldn’t ever quite get her hair right and was too tall to be a feasible option. that didn’t happen but at nineteen i was recruited by a small denver agency for promotional work at car shows with busty brunettes who thought mispronouncing the words chevy avalanche and rubbing their teeth with vaseline would make them more appealing. i did some liquor promos, too, and hooked up with a rag-tag gaggle of denverites for several months of runways polished with free beer, discounts on clothes i’d never dare in real life.
and there were the photo shoots, of course.
because i feel experienced and am only going to a shoot in a roundabout residential neighborhood in loveland, i have my man drop me off then sit statuesque for the makeup artist before she leaves for another appointment across town. the photographer wants to see the outfits i brought and get my thoughts on the ones he has and the makeup artist tosses in her opinions which i take because she’s a woman there to help me feel attractive for a man who wants me to look at his camera as though it offers gateway into the beautiful dimension—bursting with confidence, verve, sex.
and she’s off.
i change into one of the outfits the artist noted and meet the photographer in the living room. let’s go into the bedroom; the light’s better in there he leads me away, i pose before the long window turning and pointing and poking and pouting as i’ve learned to do. cameras these days whir instead of snap, a dreamy purr of a satisfied cat resting, waiting, but at any moment also primed to pounce. are you comfortable taking off your shirt and bra? i suspend in stop-motion, no longer animated by the push of pretend we’ve been entertaining.
i become the rabbit.
my nose twitches, sniffing at the thick air for the scent of blood he must have suspected—how else does a predator taste its prey without opening its mouth? i don’t have a cell phone to call my man to come back to the forest where i am about to be devoured, my bones splayed after-meal on the cool rocks where avian pillagers can second the attack, suck the marrow of me while all i can do is breathe and watch it all happen.
you know what? i need to go to the bathroom.
it’s lame, but it’s all i’ve got. rabbits aren’t known for their wiles and intelligence. but when they’ve decided to make an escape, sheer determination propels them: i scurry to the bathroom where my bag sits, grab it, and head for the door lying, i’m not feeling great, i’m going to go as i hop out and down the sidewalk. the pillager’s eyes fall a thousand-pound glare across my back—i don’t even know where i’m going in three-inch heels in suburbia, but i’ve somehow outrun the night this time.
2004: punk flesh decadence
1. dreaming, blondie
2. are we the waiting, green day
3. take me out, franz ferdinand
4. fuck the pain away, peaches
5. s.o.s., abba
6. vindicated, dashboard confessional
7. mr. brightside, the killers
8. work, jimmy eat world
9. bad religion, los angeles is burning
10. such great heights, the postal service
you won’t ever know it when it is happening, but an unbecoming is always the beginning.
all i want to do is write and cry. i bounce out of the restaurant industry where i’ve been working for a decade already, thinking a job in banking would be more fulfilling—and also feasible since i have a friend with no degree who’s been doing it for years now—but for someone with a b.a. in creative writing and a mouthful of chalkboard nails scraping down the sidewalk, i ace the math test and am feeling good until the interviewer’s raised eyebrow frowns and says my interview outfit is not appropriate for working in a bank and i scald with hot, ripe mortification that can’t be helped because i don’t have money for new clothes since i don’t have a job and why the fuck else would i be there?
i don’t cry until i get to my car.
my insurance agent pities me, gives me a job in her office updating files and calling potential clients until a district position opens up and she pushes me to apply. having learned a cold lesson from the bank experience, i’m dressed in what i hope will be thought modest, conservative, unremarkable, all my skin except my hands-neck-face concealed. at the district office, the agent’s wife attends the interview and i once again feel it goes well; they tell me to wait in the lobby until they’re finished interviewing everyone and then the agent’s wife comes out and sits next to me, grinning a cruel sneer through forced teeth: you’re not getting this job, i don’t feel comfortable with you working with my husband.
as many words as i’ve written since i’ve been able to write: for writing workshops and personal journals and letters and poems and reports and lists, i have no words for the feelings swamping my (utterly clothed) body.
i don’t cry until i get to my car.
my agent helps me secure a fulltime customer service representative position in another local office with a married agent whose wife does not attend the interview and i quickly learn the business and essentially run the office since the other rep is sick a lot and the agent almost never comes in. it’s mind-numbing, soul-crushing, deadening work and i loathe every second of every day, wishing i could float away into nothing at all which would be a decided improvement from being who i have become in the short span since graduation and what can only be considered real life.
then my favorite resale retail store advertises they’ll be opening a new location only down the block from my apartment and although i’ve never worked in retail, i apply and get hired as the assistant store manager. the world careens open, i’m never not dancing, i’m handwriting love notes to people i don’t know along smeared beer-pocked band flyers with a punk flesh decadence of new, new, new. i’ll try anything, i want a taste of it all, i am entirely bare arms, exposed calves, blushing on purpose now because i feel how the glow makes them shift their pockets just a little bit but just enough.
for recent years my only friends have been the wives or girlfriends of my man’s friends—all the kids scattered after high school and the jobs i’ve been doing haven’t offered any friend potential—but in my retail universe, everyone is my friend, or potential lover, or possible life partner. our store collaborates with another local outlet and we put on a fashion show so i’m still strutting the catwalk but this time, the audience never stops applauding and i snatch the ovation and jam into the corner of tomorrow where i’m scheming in private to start my new life.
2005: movement pleads to take another form
11. blame it on bad luck, bayside
12. time to waste, alkaline trio
13. dance, dance, fall out boy
14. i write sins, not tragedies, panic! at the disco
15. everything is alright, motion city soundtrack
16. the feel good drag, anberlin
17. crooked teeth, death cab for cutie
18. helena, my chemical romance
19. teenage bottlerocket, so far away
20. she will be loved, maroon 5
instead of cheating any more, i leave.
i leave the home we’d just bought only a few weeks before i was the middle car of a three-car pileup on college and drake leaving work to go drink with the latest fling. i leave after that summer’s warped tour when katy and i spent the night in a tour van with band members-coke-apple pot pipe-pigtails-pbr come sit in my lap and i’ll kiss you. how did he know i needed (oh i needed) to be kissed? i went to work the next day with his cologne still in my nostrils and skin under my nails.
i leave my golden retriever: he had been my man’s stepmom’s golden retriever, but we inherited him and he was almost instantaneously mine from the second we met. i leave the weird bunkbed-futon i’d been hauling around since sophomore year; i leave the expensive dishes my mama gifted us for every holiday; i leave the jetted bathtub, the patch of land that would’ve been my first garden, the screened-in patio, the softest carpet.
i take all of my books.
all of my books, pictures, clothes, cds and a small bed—that’s all i take. i am moving from a 2,000 square foot house into a small upstairs bedroom and shared bathroom with an engaged barely-not-teenage couple living in the room next door. oh the things i could tell them about coupling—partnership and loss and the way soggy tequila smell lags in the room, waterlogging the air, rendering it impossible to speak or even breathe, the long nights shrieking through daylight, the jealousy, fear, rage, sadness, crying, crying, crying.
i don’t tell them any of these things.
i hermit for a while, rotating books next to me in bed, hard and soft-bound lovers who never leave, never take up too much space, don’t tell me what’s wrong with how i hold them or complain when i need them to be there. this doesn’t last forever. books lack warmth, they lack compliments rolling from tongues doused at the dirt bar earlier that night or the sweat of starlight 80s dance nights when hip-sway, deliberate movement pleads to take another form, then books don’t cut it.
i begin a new rotation.
even perpetually drunk, i bandy with discretion—not just any ole body rotated through. i rotate the puppy-eyed tattooed coworker fresh out of his own engagement, the drummer with forearms like tire irons, the regular customer from the mall, a touring bassist, a former boyfriend—the rotation is one stitch too few in sloppy attempt of hemming close my gaping wound growing wider—a yawning canyon down which my old self tumbles and i can never quite figure out why my cries don’t echo in the expanse.
the fellow cheater ten years my senior gifts me jay adams’ bandana in the sound booth with our hands between each other’s knees, books circa survive just for me to watch from the stage, hooks me up with all the free intoxication lubrication i can stomach seven nights + several days a week—and i can stomach it all. it’s not a talent, more an inborn proclivity for drinking my sad and my friends too far under the table that now i live there crouched and helpless when he comes near. the cheater does not live alone but tells me he loves me, texts me are you gonna catch me? cause i’m falling hard, calls me every single night when his shift ends so we can breathe each other to sleep, bums smokes though he’s not really a smoker so we can be alone together in front of everyone.
and everyone sees and everyone blames me.
i can stomach that too—i’m used to the blame. it’s always easier to push the woman off a cliff and claim she was standing too close to the edge.
2011: for a while, i float
1. new slang, the shins
2. wooden heart, listener
3. satellite, guster
4. sweet disposition, temper trap
5. can you tell, ra ra riot
6. the numbers game, thievery corporation
7. no cars go, arcade fire
8. it ain’t me babe, bob dylan
9. i still believe, frank turner
10. simple song, the shins
as a southern girl, i grew to hate the rain, then cherished it suddenly when it pulled free your narrow apartment door, handed me a drink in a room curry-deluged, wet and shiny and terrifying as the things we all hope to wear around our necks someday. we sit in my jeep at zilker and you goofily demand simple song over and over and over again until the tears are real, soggy blooming fresh floral and aching, a heart destroyed before it has a chance to passion-explode with coupling. we sit in my jeep in the downpour of rabbit’s lounge having been tossed by the thunder from the picnic table and our black mexican beers, the splash of the wipers and thievery corporation smash together in your cacophonous proposal song.
for a while, i float.
i say float, i guess, because there is an ethereal lifting quality to the word, a hearkened awareness of breath and body in cloud of buoyancy coddling a mortal form, float is carrying me upright and substantial—but this is all a decadent lie.
i’m detached from my flesh; my hands and mouth move without leadership from my brain or heart so i know i’m going but not so sure i’m still alive. there is destruction in the promise of lips lined with liquor-love sonnets spewing gleam of please stay, calling the airline to rebook my flight a few hours later—it’s worth the $50 surcharge to lay together paralyzed and mute as drugged babies may.
yes: this is it, this is the one, the end, the be-all but we’re too far apart to be composed as a singular entity no matter how much we’ve been striving for this purpose in the several days since we met. every wanton attempt at identity-melding eventually resumes in our human distinction and when i board the plane and don’t look back i already know you are also not looking.
it never merely rains in texas, no, when the sky bruises closed with moisture and the clock hands ebb fast, the color of water smells darkly of lily pads, forgotten frog-nights, and the home we almost made together in austin. it’s a memory now, like singing violets—small, precocious—in dreams from which we won’t wake, and long for just one more minute to get wet.
The Blood Pudding – April 28, 2021
D. E. Fulford is a writer and English instructor at Colorado State University. She earned master’s degrees in both creative writing and education and is in her third year of her doctor of education. Her chapbook, southern atheist: oh, honey, is forthcoming from Cathexis Northwest Press. Other poems and lyrical essays can be found in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Longridge Review, The Blood Pudding, Indolent Books, Dreamers Magazine, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Sunspot Literary Journal, and many more. She resides on the front range of the Rocky Mountains with her partner Levi and their chocolate Labrador, The Walrus. In her spare time, she can be found riding her Triumph Street Twin motorbike.
Artwork: Igor Skaletsky was born in Voronezh in 1978. Skaletsky’s collage technique is borrowed from avant-garde artists of 1920s. Typical for his artworks is sign saturation and recognizability of images. His works refer to our visual habits, subtly addressing our subconscious. You can find more about him here.