Pretty Stories
Michelle O'Kane

1975
I've been here working in the yard. It's all clear now - only a few vines & I've started planting vegetables and flowers. I'm starting everything from seeds.
--Kathleen

Here is what is this about. I don't know what I'm about. Most people ignore me now and I'm not sure why, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to know why, and even if I knew why, I wouldn't remember anyway. I'm a handful on my best of days. My best of days happened decades ago. I can hardly live with myself. And I'm not. Nobody is. Time is something that speeds by on a billion schedules, and patterns its way around the world in an interactive lacy web. Life billows. I get tired easily and right now I'm busy imagining the reality of slitting my wrists. I'm scared. I'm this tired because I hardly eat. Also, my brain has stopped functioning, which is exhausting. For once, this isn't on purpose. I haven't made it to the store yet, Jerry. I haven't made it anywhere at all. I have a past. Once, I had a mother and a father and a sister. I never knew my sister, but I heard she was a perfect baby. I had a first husband. They're all dead. Ken's dead, too. Today, Koko died.

I am overwhelmed, usually because I'm on the floor, and everything is tall. I'm so hungry that when I try to eat I just puke, naturally. My throat and my fingers have been on a break. I feel like I'm washing away. I feel like a melting pile of snow. I feel like I should be in the forest, climbing redwood trees. I feel like I need a nap but I can't sleep. I want to die. I want to live. I want to live a different life. I want to write something good. I want to write it well. But I don't know what good is, and, for some people, things are never well enough. I want to stop dwelling in the comprehensive state of my racing pulse, my speeding heartbeat. My mother's voice. 

I am forty-three. My mother died when she was forty-three. She died right after surgery to remove her brain tumor. The last time I saw her, she was on a gurney, sedated, her long, curly brown hair looking like it was being mulled into a cap. I watched her being pushed, under a blanket, on the gurney, through blue hospital doors, that closed. That was the last time I saw my mother breathing. Two days later I saw my mother again. She was in a hospital room, dead. Her bed was against the east facing wall, and there was only one bed in the room. She still had that cap on her head. It was the only time I ever saw my mother's hair look so lifeless. The last time I saw myself I, too, was on a gurney. 

Now, I am still alive, technically. I often wonder if my mother and I had brains that weren't built to work for more than forty-three years. 

I want to see flowers. I want to feel warm water. I want to feel waves crashing against my back. I feel stupid. I feel smart. I died. They stopped me from breathing and then let me breath again. Do I feel smart because I'm so stupid? I want to be happy. I want to eat. I want to know. I want my hair to not fall out. I need a break. I need a brain. I want a break that lasts me the rest of my life and beyond. I don't want to remember being eight years old with my gymnastic teacher's hands in my pants. I want my hair back. I want my life back. I want a sandwich. I want ice-cream. I want to eat and not puke. I want to sleep. Forever. I want to live. Happily. Indefinitely. I want to hold my newborn son, every one of these days. I want to be in love and mean it. I want my liver to stop storing iron. I want to hide in a lake. I want to hide with fish. Instead I'm swimming fiercely in shallow water. My knees hit rocks. I taste blood. I remember the blasting sound of my typewriter hitting cement after I threw it over my balcony. When the typewriter hit the concrete, the ribbon spool still pressed the paper. After it thudded, I remember brown leaves drifting around my brown typewriter, like floating ballerinas.
-Michelle, 2015


While your brain still functions, kinda, you think about the parts of your life that were good. Or, you just make up some good parts. Isn't that what you do? What you've been paid to do? You make up pretty stories, write them down, and sell them. Romance novels. A bunch of pretty stories.  
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Pretty Stories
A Free Book by Michelle O'Kane

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This one time I wrote a story, but it wasn’t a real story because it actually happened and it happened to a girl who wasn’t me. I just shared her birth certificate and her predisposition to unruly hair. And I played the flute and so did she. I heard people crunching very loudly, pieces of toasted bread because that’s what they did in Spain and France and other places, in my head, and soup, with an egg dropped into steaming...steaming red... and then I walked through a door that could of led anywhere, because it had wood on the glass that wasn’t a door, nor was it any where. It was a window with panes and surrounding the panes was crispy brown wood with crinkling-white paint, and beyond the door was a cement sidewalk because we only have cement in the capitals of small states--everywhere else they have concrete, with yellow, faded stripes, and across the stripes are crowded, iridescent lights, lights that are meant to look old, but they’re not as old as 1895, and to the left there is a street that goes down, and so do the ladies, it goes down, east to where the hookers are, in trailers and the better the hooker the longer the trail, the concrete trail to their trailers, and the more girls and the more men, and he held the door open, for me to leave the coffee shop, he held held the door and with his other arm, he held the leash to his dog.   

June sixteen nineteen sixty three
New York City, New York
Hot, very sticky, but no sun

We arrived at La Guardia Airport in New York around noon & then took a taxi to the Paramount Hotel in the heart of the city. After we settle in the hotel 3 others and I went to the matinee at the Radio City Music Hall, then at lunch is an "automax" recommended by our taxi driver. After dinner we took the subway to the empire State Build. When arriving on our floor at the hotel we saw Kim Johnson who was in route to Europe. He and 3 others took Paula & I to Greenwich village, we went to a coffee house and then to "The Room at the Bottom." 
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