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Amber Paulen

Brittany #1

The story of what I am writing is long. Much longer than what I am writing and even longer than all that I have written. I have been at it, in many more ways than words to paper, for years now. Can you imagine my relief when the thing can meet my expectations, namely that it be a book I would read, although I do think there will be pain of parting, but that comes much later. . . The following is from a greater and very confused work that I wrote during my time in Seville. It is something I have attempted to re-work many times and that I am currently attempting to re-work, though there is a certain charm to the original that just can’t be captured. I am keeping the lowercases, as that is how I wrote then. Here we go:

empty, full, good, evil, black, white, all, nothing, happy, sad—bleh!—enough with my chaotic contradictions. money, i did not have any, via farini was a bumpy road. perhaps the true origin of my discontent sprang from my proximity to termini station and the ideal it held: perpetual movement, at least perpetual physical movement. on a walk through the station, looming high and to the right is the departure board constantly flipping: tic-tic-tic! the train to paris is leaving in one hour, detouring briefly in florence, ten trains daily to milan, from there venice is but a skip, geneva, berlin, vienna, the whistle is blowing, i better run, but maybe it is the south that is calling, salerno, napoli, palermo, first stop bari to hop a ferry to greece, tic-tic-tic! i can’t decide fast enough, the one i wanted is already being shot down the tracks.

click-clack! and the echo of powerful vibrations, body-lulling vibrations, thickly palpitating vibrations. the big white headlight, the train’s first and third eye, cutting through the dark, cutting through the rolling tuscan hills, through the forgotten dolomites, giving way to jagged alps, the sun rising over the misty rhone, flat excepting for scattered farmhouses with smoke curling out of chimneys. we make a quick left, head-first into the rich and fecund basque. my eyes close for a second, opening to bacchus filling my cup. his smile bends me over in laughter, his hand is on my knee. through the tunnel of the pyrenees he disappears, replaced in san sebastián by an american girl i’ll call brittany, since that name is the embodiment of all the ignorance of this world.

brittany made feasts of her ignorance. it was in her baby’s bottle straight from the start and since then she has lapped it up like a ravenous rabbit. if someone thought to provide a favor and smashed her skull, it would pop! like a helium balloon. perhaps, back in the states, she was a member of a sorority and all the rest of her illiterate bunny friends called her ‘brit’ or ‘brits’ for short. she was blond, though unnaturally and from the minute she sat down across from me she never shut up. i tried my best to divert her witless babble, tried to focus out the window through the black and beyond, but the pane stubbornly only held our reflections. i didn’t say a word; i nodded and shook my head and if i would have consented to more, it would have been my hands around her neck.

we were opposites, the way i presented myself, how i was slovenly sprawled out across three seats, why the hell did she have to keep talking to me? just because we were both americans, just because you can’t stand one minute inside your own head, just because we are on the same train does not mean we should be joined in incessant conversation. i left the states to get away from you fucking bunnies; leave me alone!

brittany is visiting her brother, brittany is from st. louis, brittany hopes her brother’s apartment is big and that she’ll have her own room and that she can sleep with his spanish roommate, brittany is staying for a week, brittany wants to go home in time for a big kegger her friends are having for the football team. eventually brittany asked me, “so, like amber, what are you doing?”

“travelling,” i cooly answered.

“and like, when do you go home?”


and just like that brittany shut up!

brittany did not understand. her face dropped with vacuity and i could hear her begin to think and through the rattle of rusty gears she says, “like, what are you trying to do? find the meaning of life or something?”

i said not a word, uttered not a peep. i sat there listening to the winding down of the gears, which is probably the position they are in today. luckily for both of us, brittany and her gigantic suitcase soon got off. again i was alone and in the dark.

brittany left me with that damned question and her ridiculously nasal voice ringing through my head, over and over, it repeated itself to me. THE meaning of LIFE? and with the incessant repetition the more indignant i became. what year was it again? and you masses haven’t figured out that there can’t possibly be one meaning to life? that life depends on you to bring it meaning, which even individually can be more various than nature itself? that life is more important than the meaning and the less meaning might be the better for then there is more living? why THE meaning brittany? but all i get is another vacuous stare, digging for some reaction i begin a discourse on my favorite iconoclast, her tongue starts to hang out, saliva dripping. poor, poor brittany, the successful product of formal education. no reactionary there, no revolutionary, not even one iota of individuality. why the mass genocides of the muslim people when all the brittanys of the world are over-due for slaughter? but that’s reactionary, and god forbid i react.

Seville, Spain
December 2004


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