After John Hawks (Second Skin)
I will tell you in a few words who I am: concubine of the Manx stealthily moving through the cat grass beyond the bubbled pane where my rump anchors in its ergonomic chair; concubine of shrouds and the shady toes of giddy prepubescent pixies weaving nefarious plots; concubine of suitcases made from the foreskins of Renaissance puti; still concubine of that small heart, which somehow survived the glorious years of my fucking in its chambers and beyond its doors; and concubine of rich fat Isabel, my slave girl, former partner-in-crime and a-muse, and of my husband and son. But most of all, concubine of my prostituted and misanthropic self.
Yet surely, I am more than a concubine. It will be clear, I think, that I am a concubine of sentiment as well.
Had I been born my father’s son instead of daughter—and the thought is not so improbable, after all, and causes me neither rack, ruin nor bewitchment when I give it my serious yet disdainful scrutiny—I would not have matured into a slim and mercurial Hermes but rather into a tiny and tainted Oedipus gouging out his own eyes.
After Lydia Davis (Boring Friends)
We only know four hundred interesting people. The rest of our friends we find very boring. However, most of the friends we find boring find us fascinating: the most fascinating “fine” us dull.
Anyway, my stimulating friend is in his apartment talking to a woman with gray hair. They’re having a conversation about nothing, which is beguiling considering how tedious they are. My friend is interesting in a let-me-show-you-how-clever-I-am sort of way. It’s a language I tune out, a language I refuse to decipher, because I am dull as shit, which is interesting.
Snatches of conversation float my way: “You didn’t!” and “swat-swat” and “Buxtehaude”.
Now, this is dull but sadist me is on her knees peeping through a keyhole. I really can’t get up and just knock on the door, the door of this exciting man, my friend, and his gray-haired bore, now can I?
Let’s do for the inferno of the story. I brush up, straighten my jabot, and knock on the door. My interesting friend, an ugly cellist for the Berlin Philharmonic, invites me in. He introduces me to the woman, who on closer inspection, is cuter than him. I mean she’s so cute I almost can’t speak, but then I am cute, too. In fact, we’re two of the cutest steins you’ve ever seen, except him.
We sit at the dull-as-dishwater coffee table, tongue each other, pass around a bottle of pigswill, and congratulate ourselves for being animatedly alive.
Lucinda Kempe’s work has been published or is forthcoming in The Southampton Review, Elm Leaves Journal, New World Writing, and the Summerset Review. The recipient of the Joseph Kelly Prize for creative writing in 2015, she’s an M.F.A. graduate from Stony Brook University. Her narrative nonfiction, Sam Soss Had Sex, was a semi-finalist in the 2016 Under the Gum Tree’s inaugural contest. Her micro “Jeanne D’arc” was longlisted for Wigleaf’s Top 50 2018. Elm Leaves Journal nominated “I Became a Girl” for the 2020 Pushcart Prize. It was long listed.