Two Fictions

Greg Gerke


High on the Thigh

The poem he writes is set in Rome—on the winding road they walked up one early morning to get to the park that contains the museum.

They are walking slowly because they are tired and the poet uses plain language to describe their motion. They pass a bird pecking a baguette. Maybe this isn't even a poem, he thinks, but eventually he continues and they do as well, but not well enough. He's not playing it for laughs because his audience doesn't like funny poetry and anyway the situation is serious—they go to the museum early so they can get many things done, so they can see great art on the other side of the city as well. He carries the food and water as always. She isn't talking and neither is he and that's why a poem is the correct form. His fiction is dialogue driven because he says little in real life and as per real life the male speaker of the poem can't answer simple questions put to him and he begins a new stanza, inside of which the walk continues pretty much as it once unfolded in Rome. He mumbles about how good the museum is going to be and she agrees. They drink water and test their Italian on the deserted boulevard.

Yet the poem is becoming shit, so he adds dialogue. Nice making love to you this morning, he says and she can't say anything to this so she laughs—an odd reaction because usually she'd have a reply spinning in the air before he placed a period on his sentence. Maybe she isn't his character anymore and isn't that delightful because he's progressed in how he's able to mask real people, making them unreal and sympathetic at the same time. But she becomes very unsympathetic when the laugh collapses into a sneer and suddenly masking isn't going too well. And it's just how she'd laugh—very underhandedly, thoughtlessness ripe and swelling as sometimes, truly, she didn't have to say anything. Yet those times were less memorable for him because she didn't use words or she laughed at a low volume, but being the author of the poem he can see and hear everything and he kind of understands why he left the relationship—it's better to see and hear everything even if it's bad since at least it won't be hidden.

The poem then loses its distinction as shit and the male speaker of the poem asks why she is laughing and why won't she use words to answer him? The poet answers as he's had direct experience with the woman alongside him, saying she laughs because she knows how things will turn out. Even in Rome where they are seemingly loving with one another—traces blue-black, body bruises, high on the thigh though covered, exist. The speaker of the poem asks the poet if they can go into the museum and have a fun time and not to do anything else except go back to the hotel and make love, but the poet is ambivalent because that's not what happened. He knows they saw great art, that she touched St. Teresa's toe, and that he became enraged and asked her please not to touch the great art again and she didn't laugh and told him to go to hell. No, no lovemaking at the hotel.

You son of bitch, the speaker of the poem calls the poet and the poet chuckles because they have the same mother and he proceeds to write the speaker of the poem out of the poem so the voice is more distanced, more how the poet sounds after being away from her for a year, being away from Rome for two. The boulevard is still deserted and he decides to let the sun come out, given the male character in the poem couldn't make morning love being so eager to see great art. The character is lost and overwhelmed by a city he will never see again and she grows more sympathetic but when presented with St. Teresa's toe she's still going to touch it and that's probably good for the poem and the poet, because the poet needs to have something outrageous occur and he's so glad for her, happy she kept her outrageousness, at least through Rome. Initially it's what drew him to her and allowed him to show her his early sketches and manuscripts, though it's what he eventually couldn't stand and had to get away from because in the end, life is serious and death more so— that's why he favors poetry, because it's august and people go mmmmm after he or someone else reads a good one.

This exercise has gone well. And in what better place than Rome? And what better than those two lovers filling that place? What better than him defending her from the guards? What better than this colossal lie, this poem?



Three Rich Women

My neurologist told me I'm a nervous person and she says this to many of her patients. It's too easy. Of course we are nervous people, we have nerve problems. If she laughed after she said such a thing I might respect her. I would know she didn't take herself seriously and that she was happy to explore other ways to buy my trust.

I know all about her years in medical school and the long hours and I feel compassion because I went out with a doctor. This doctor girlfriend constantly reminded me how many hours a week she worked and how many years she had to go before finishing her residency. I know how many years you have to go, I told her, I live with you. Then I would laugh but that was the wrong thing to do and now I think my neurologist shouldn't laugh after she tells a patient they are a nervous person because that person might get as upset as the doctor girlfriend I lived with.

I would feel closer to my neurologist if she took me in her arms, rubbed my hair, kissed my eyes (where my nerve damage is), and refrained from speaking. Then I'd know she was something more than what I've come to expect. And I would feel right in the head, not guilty for being a nervous person.

Most of my life my eyes have been good. They were really really good years ago, when my mother told me I had to take care of my eyes. What the fuck is she talking about? I said to myself. My eyes were fine. I wore glasses, but I didn't have any other eye problems. And a lot of people wear glasses. A lot of people wished they had glasses and some wear them even though they don't need them, thinking they look better if they have them on. My neurologist wears glasses and when I ask her if she really needs them she hands me the card of a psychologist friend of hers.

I disobeyed my mother's eye advice and it turned out my mother was right, but I'm pretty sure she didn't expect to be right, so her victory stands as unearned and accidental, though every Christmas I get reminded of her triumph.

When I first had the eye trouble I wanted my doctor girlfriend to help me. She was a family medicine doctor and she examined my eye and said she didn't see anything wrong. I stared at her the rest of the night, primarily with my bad eye, thinking she might add something to the diagnosis but she just yelled that I forgot to buy ketchup and how could she buy ketchup when she worked so many hours a week.

A few days ago I called up my doctor ex-girlfriend and told her what the neurologist said, about me being a nervous person. I wondered if that could be true, and if it was true, was that a bad thing?

She said it was ungodly true and as to whether it was a bad thing, it depended on how and on whom I was using my stores of nervousness. She also surmised my neurologist was probably an unhappy person since she knew many unhappy neurologists in the area and also all doctors say weird, authoritative crap, which I should know because I lived with one. I agreed with her and she immediately became incensed. Why did you agree? she yelled. What is the matter with you? I told her my nerve problems were acting up and she told me I should probably go to another neurologist because this one clearly didn't like me and what else did I want from her, free samples?

My mother was never crazy about my doctor girlfriend and she probably wouldn't like my neurologist either. She has been right about too many things in my life, like God showed her what I would turn into when I was born. I really wanted my mother to like my doctor girlfriend, though more than anything I wanted my doctor girlfriend to like my mother because by then I was living every day with my doctor girlfriend. I wanted her to like my mother so much I took them to a fancy Serbian restaurant. I even tried to order a second very expensive bottle of wine to make everything easier but my mother acted out. She said I didn't make enough money to be so extravagant. Then she looked briefly at my doctor girlfriend. After I dropped my mother off at her hotel I asked my doctor girlfriend what she thought and she said my mother was okay, but she needed a few more glasses of wine and hadn't I ever told my mother she made only $40,000 a year as a resident.

Now I'm down to just my neurologist and we aren't likely to be intimate anytime soon. I could jump to a male neurologist. I figure he wouldn't use the nervous line because men are often less personable and afraid of conversation, even male doctors, but this might increase my nervousness because I'd think there was something they weren't telling me. I look at my neurologist bill and I see six zeros where there are only three. It's alright, I'm paying to make her happy.