7.10 / September 2012

Jean-Louise Is Not Really Interested


There were so many things the girl didn’t know, things she refused to know. She didn’t want details about the dark weight of the universe. She didn’t want diagrams showing the number of stomachs inside of a cow. She didn’t want pamphlets on how many times a cell divided to make a baby. She went down to the river and plunged in her arms to the elbow. The water was cold; she wanted to drink some but wasn’t sure it was clean enough. Nothing was usually clean enough. Things were always dirtier than one wanted them to be. Things were always contagious in some way or another, laced with roundworms and blood flukes and long-suffering parasites. But living carefully was better than living other ways. Taking care with water was preferable to an invasion of foreign organisms.



The boy walked to the girl’s house in a panic. He was worried all over. The worry came out of his pores in the form of sweat, the strange-smelling sweat of cattle in shoots. His breath was sour from all the worrying and his feet swelled, spilling out of his loafers. He didn’t know what he would say to the girl; he didn’t know how to explain himself. He had so many feelings and so few words. He had so few sentences. He had no sentences. They bobbed for a moment in the back of his throat, forming, gathering momentum, gathering finesse, and then he swallowed them down. His stomach became a terrible place to be. Everything else in his stomach decided to GET OUT. He vomited on the sidewalk, drenching a colony of ants. His worry wiped out six generations of ants. Only the child ants in the field with crumbs on their back survived the attack.



Sometime after the baby was born, the girl shaved her head and put on a turtleneck. Now that her scalp was bare, she wanted to cover her neck. She wanted to cover her whole body; even in long pants and long sleeves she felt naked. She put on leather gloves to cover her hands. She put on thick socks and shoes to doubly reinforce her feet from the elements. She put on reflective sunglasses to shield her eyes from the sun and also from other eyes. If people tried to look at her, they would only see themselves.



The infant screamed all night and made terrible sounds. The girl put the infant in the window to see what would happen. No one came to take the infant. No one saw the infant in the window and decided they had to have him. The girl didn’t know what to do. She screamed and made terrible sounds and the infant stopped crying and looked at her. The infant looked at her and looked at her and looked at her. The girl had never been stared at for very long except for by men. Men were always staring at the girl for long periods of time, but their stares were different. Like infants, men were hungry. They were hungry for different things and for the same things.

The girl didn’t want to feed anyone, so she left and the infant grew up without her. He stared at women in bars, in cafes, in streets, in cars. He stared at women almost all of the time. He sometimes wondered if the woman he was staring at was his mother, but usually he just wondered whether the woman he was staring at would be willing to take off her clothes. He wondered if she would get down on her hands and knees and purr like a wildcat. He wondered if she would crawl towards him on the linoleum and say things in his ear normal women wouldn’t say. He wanted to hear the worst things in the worst way. He had a terrible ache to hear such terrible, terrible things. He wasn’t willing to tell anyone this. He decided instead to wait and listen. One day he found a woman he hoped would say the things he wanted to hear. She took off her clothes. She got down on all fours and purred like a wildcat. She crawled towards him on the linoleum, nude, and put her soft lips to his ear. He strained to listen. He would remember this moment forever. She said, “I don’t expect you to love me.”

He agreed this was a sensible idea.



Somewhere in the black, distant universe: an epic smashing of gas and light. A propelling of particles: panspermic spores strapping saddles to asteroids and riding to earth like microscopic cowboys. The wet blue everything vibrates with energy. Creatures develop then grow apparatuses: scales, teeth, fins, hearts. A cow is born with four stomach chambers: the book, the blanket, the bible, the honeycomb. Cave walls are carved up and painted, deep grooves and dyes to represent cycles: sun over moon, land over water, man over steer. Man steps from his cave, blinking, his mouth chewing something. It’s not language yet, but it will be soon. Man establishes hierarchies: things that pass through the body; things born from the body; things that enter the body and refuse to leave.

All the girl wanted was to live as an empty vessel. Just the parts she was born with and nothing extra. Not to be a heap of human that anything can enter. Not to be a pillar of flesh from which anything can escape.

Rachel Farrell (@rachelfarrell) is a student in the MFA program at the University of Michigan. She previously served as an editorial intern at Michigan Quarterly Review and worked for a media monitoring firm in Chicago. She has work forthcoming in Ninth Letter.
7.10 / September 2012