A man is following me through a congregation of sightseers who’ve got no idea I’m about to be murdered. Shy is awestruck with the hundreds of gelato flavors and says, “Look! There’s one that tastes like blood…” but I can’t look because the guy is just beyond the open door, staring. He wants to kill me because when he got emasculated by a sort-of mime who made a slide-whistle noise while running a balloon sword up the inside of the guy’s thighs, everyone in the Piazza della Rotonda laughed, but I laughed closest, so I was his prey. I tell the scooper I would like half-pistachio, half-blood.
Pool water wet, I weave through olive trees desperate to nab the pet-shaped blur I let escape out the villa door. All the others are jet lag napping and you and Chelsea are approaching fast so there’s nothing to do but fess up. You laugh and say no, there’s no dog, but, Chelsea asks, did it happen to have udders, which yeah, come to think of it, the dog mooed.
The plumber’s pantomiming freestyle swimming and then he’s pantomiming a plumber who is shivering so hard he’s gotta grab his own arms tight or else he’d Energizer Bunny the fuck up, out, and away. He is doing this because, although my appearance says otherwise, I cannot speak his language. But little does he know, I’m from Boston and drink Dunkin Iced Coffees when it’s negative degrees, in fahkin Fahrenheit, dude. You’re around the side of the house, cracking up so hard, you’re a yellow rubber chicken that can no longer scream, just wheeze.
We’re in a ghost town built to look like a beach town without the slick, shimmery skin of Mediterranean bodies. I’m drinking Sex On The Beach and I wear the orange rind as a mouthguard. The silence is so loud, it seems nothing less than a group of American wine tourists led by a man named Frankie, the drunkest grape of the bunch, telling us the loudest stories about how his wife at home is probably getting her pussy plowed by the hot, young, Casanova next door with his monstrous cock, how Frankie himself once got pantsed at a pool party and everyone ridiculed him for his pork button, how the night before when a bartender asked if he knew Gerry Gordon he replied Gerry Gordon?! Not only do I know him, he’s in the other room! while Gerry himself, an orthodontist, stood with a squad of post-post-menopausal moms, all softly smiling as they watched this verbal assault on us, could break it. But that would never happen, not in a million years.
I feel like shit because you keep insisting the thing I wrote as a throwaway experiment is better than my fiction. You even suggest I abandon my strongest short story, the one about the family going through a car wash. You just weren’t interested, you say.
I’m drunk on communal wine, limoncello I bought to share but no one wants, mojitos you’ve made from rum and mojito soda. I’m loud and rambling about the ghosts I’ve seen this week and how the Poltergeist franchise is haunted and your husband says Drew Barrymore played Carol Anne. And I say no, that cannot possibly be the case because I was just about to say she died of a string of heart attacks set off by septic shock before Poltergeist III was theatrically released. He refuses to accept anyone other than Drew was grabbed at by the static hand of one of the TV people attempting to drag her to the other side.
What I mean to say is: I do not appreciate what you’ve done one bit. I mean, I do appreciate it, with all my heart I appreciate it, this unfathomable ride you’ve sent me on, the every last opportunity it’s afforded me, all these friends I wouldn’t have made. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the boundary separating this text from my life is disintegrating exponentially— I could lose friends, jobs, I cannot find love in someone unwilling to be exposed. And yeah, I’ll admit it was my idea to start this and Chelsea’s suggestion to publish excerpts online along the way, but it’s all on you for putting the silly little idea in my head that this was my strength, that this is what I should be doing. But now, if free will exists, you’ve gone and ripped mine to shreds. I’ve no choice but to write this through. And if in 9 years, when it’s all over, no one wants to publish this in physical book form, I’m gonna fuckin kick your ass. Bitch.