Monkey was in a box.
It was a big box.
Made of cardboard.
Just big enough for a Monkey.
'Help!' He called. 'I'm in a box!'
It was dark inside the box.
'It's dark in here!'
Monkey didn't like the dark.
'I don't like it!'
He was hungry.
But the lid was on the box.
And Monkey couldn't get out.
'I can't get out!'
Gus the dog could hear Monkey.
He was in trouble and needed help.
'How did you get in a box?' Asked Gus.
Monkey said he didn't know.
'I don't know!'
But that wasn't true.
Monkey had seen the empty box.
'I saw a box!'
And had climbed inside it.
'It was empty so I climbed in!'
Then Monkey had pulled the lid closed.
'It closed all by itself!'
Henry the cat was curious.
He wondered why Gus was talking to a box.
'Why are you talking to a box?' He asked.
'Monkey is in there.'
'How did he get in a box?'
'He climbed in.'
Monkey could hear them.
'I'm not deaf!'
He didn't think he was silly at all.
'And I'm not silly!'
What were empty boxes for?
If not to climb into?
'The box was empty!'
'It's not empty now,' said Henry.
Gus asked Henry what they should do.
About Monkey in the box.
'Should we let him out?'
Monkey tried shaking the box.
'Let me out! Let me out!'
There were holes in the side of the box.
The holes let air in.
'Can you breathe in there?' Asked Henry.
'Yes. There are holes!'
The holes let Monkey look out.
'I can see you!'
His friends were just sitting there.
'Don't just sit there! Do something!'
But dogs and cats have paws.
Not hands like a Monkey has hands.
So there wasn't much they could do.
'Like what?' Asked Gus.
'Try lifting the lid off!'
'With what?' Asked Henry.
Gus said, 'I could use my nose.'
But Monkey had pulled the lid down tight.
And Gus couldn't nudge it open.
'It's no use!' Cried Monkey.
He thought he might die in the box.
'I'm going to die in here!'
If somebody didn't do something soon.
'Can't you do anything?'
'Maybe we can push the box over,' said Gus.
'Try pushing the box over!'
But the box was too heavy.
'You're too fat,' said Henry.
Monkey didn't think it was funny.
'That's not funny!'
If anyone was fat it was Henry.
He was an inside cat.
All he did was eat and sleep.
And eat some more.
He looked like a big round ball of black wool.
'You get stuck in the cat-flap!'
Gus had an idea.
'Maybe if you push too,' he told Monkey.
Even Henry pushed.
But the box didn't want to be pushed.
It didn't move.
'It's not moving! Push harder!'
It didn't help that Monkey was pushing the wrong way.
Back against his friends.
And not the way Gus and Henry were pushing.
Monkey was weak.
He hadn't eaten anything for minutes.
'I'm tired and hungry!'
He could really use a banana.
'I could really use a banana!'
Or something to quench his thirst.
'Or a nice juicy norange!'
'What's a norange?' Asked Henry.
'He means an orange.' .
'Then why didn't he say an orange?'
He didn't know.
'I can hear you!'
'Stick your fingers in your ears.' Henry told Monkey.
Nobby the koala had come down out of his tree.
'What's all the kerfuffle about?' He asked.
'Monkey's in a box,' said Gus.
'He can't get out,' said Henry.
Nobby wasn't surprised.
'That doesn't surprise me.'
'What do we do?' Asked Gus.
'You need thumbs,' said Nobby.
Monkey still had his fingers in his ears.
'I'm not dumb!'
'Nobody said you were,' said Gus.
'I did,' said Henry.
'We don't have thumbs.' Gus said to Nobby.
'You're in luck,' said Nobby. 'I'm all thumbs.'
He climbed on top of the box.
Gripped the lid.
And rolled backwards.
The lid came off easily.
And Monkey popped out.
'Let that be a lesson to you,' Nobby told Monkey. 'Stay out of empty boxes.'
But Monkey was a Monkey.
And what else were empty boxes for?
Out of Her Mind
As soon as the door opens, I bolt into the closet to avoid being seen. I do this every time Lilian comes home, but today it’s even more important. She’s mad. I can’t tell who she’s yelling at yet, but I can hear crying.
“Would you stop?! You know who I am!”
“No, I don’t!” she says, crying even harder. I can see her now; she's a little girl, and she looks to be six or seven.
“I am your mother! Stop playing around Ashlynn, or you’ll be going to bed early tonight.” I could tell how exasperated she was, but Lilian doesn’t have a daughter. She’s thirty-two, and has never been married, or been in a relationship long enough to have a child.
The little girl quiets gradually, and when she finally forces herself to stop crying, she says, “My name is not Ashlynn, it’s Eva, and I think you mixed me up with your own child. My mommy’s name is Helen, and my daddy’s name is Robert. I live on-” but Lilian cuts her off.
“Your name is Ashlynn, I am your mother, and your father died two months ago!” She screams the last bit, and Eva starts crying again.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. It’s probably the landlord, coming for the monthly check. Lilian goes wide-eyed, but walks toward the door. “Go sit in the living room, Ashlynn.”
She smooths her dress and opens the door. “Hello, sir. Can I help you?”
When he comes in, I see that it’s a police officer. “Ma’am, we got a call a few minutes ago, saying that one of your neighbors saw something moving in here, and you weren’t home yet.
Would you mind if I take a look around real quick?” But he’s already walking in before she can nod her answer.
Doesn’t he realize that there’s something wrong with Lilian? She’s a wreck, and it’s only going to get worse.
I’m the one who was seen in here earlier. I sometimes come in here and try on my old clothes that Lilian never got rid of. It makes me feel real, since I died two months ago. I’ve been watching over her, making sure she’s alright. Lilian and I were together for two years.
Before I died, she told me that I was the only man she ever loved. There is definitely something going on with her, though. She didn’t used to be like this.
I always loved taking Lilian places, and spending time with her. She was a little uncertain of our relationship at first; she wasn’t very open with her feelings. But after a while, everything seemed so natural.
But Lilian never wanted a child. She specifically told me that when I would bring it up, hoping she’d change her mind. I don’t know where she found that little girl, but she seems to actually think her name is Ashlynn, and that I’m her father.
After looking all through the house, he goes into the living room, and sees Eva. She looks scared, so he sits down cautiously. “Hello," he says, "And who might you be?”
She just stares, and doesn’t say anything, probably thinking that Lilian was going to freak out again if she says Eva.
“It’s alright. You can tell me. What’s wrong?” Nothing. “Can you tell me your name?” Still no answer.
He takes out his spiral pad and a pen and hands it to her. She takes it, but doesn’t write anything down.
Lilian comes in, carrying coffee. “What’s going on?” she says suspiciously, looking back and forth between the two.
“Is this your daughter?” he asks, looking at Eva the whole time.
Lilian is silent for a moment. “Yes, of course, she’s my daughter. Why else would she be in my house, on my couch?” she asks him defensively.
“Ma’am, she looks terrified, and there is nothing in this house that suggests a child lives here. I’m going to have to ask you to go stand in the foyer for a few minutes while I talk to the girl.” He turns to Eva as Lilian walks away.
“Now, I want you to tell me your name, so we can get you back to your real parents. Can you tell me?”
She stays quiet for a moment, and then recites what she tried telling Lilian earlier. “My name is Eva. My mom’s name is Helen, and my dad’s name is Robert. We live in a neighborhood called White Springs, and I was at the playground when she-” She looks up at Lilian, who is now crying. “She came over to me and picked me up, calling me her baby, like I was her daughter. I don’t know her though, please help me.” She talks so quickly he has to scribble to keep up.
“Okay, Eva. Do you know your parents’ phone number? Or your address?” She shakes her head no.
“I’m sorry.” She pauses. “I'm still going home, right?” She actually looks scared that he’ll say no.
“Of course you will. I’ll be right back.” he tells her, and walks into the foyer to talk to Lilian. “Can we go outside and talk?” he asks her, eyeing the door.
“Sure.” She looks upset, like it’s actually her daughter who is about to be taken from her.
Before I died, Lilian was put in a mental hospital to care for her, and to fix her. They said that she was experiencing a break from reality, caused by the loss of a loved one. They don’t know about me; no one does, but they know that her dad died earlier this year.
She broke down at least once a day, being trapped in a small room alone, aside from her once a day therapy session. Lilian is considered one of the dangerous ones in this place.
I visit her everyday, and most days, I stay all day. She started talking to herself more and more frequently, which the doctors found concerning, but she was trying to talk herself through everything that had happened.
And then- well, then, she started talking to me, too. She told me she was sorry, that she loved me so much, that she wanted to see me- just one more time, if that’s all she could.
She just wanted a chance to apologize, to make it up to me for what she did. I never spoke back, but I listened, whenever she needed it.
About two months ago, Lilian was still grieving her dad’s death, and I came over to her house to comfort her. She seemed to be telling herself that he was coming back, that he just went to the store, and took a detour, that he got lost, that he was getting directions, on and on until I tried to tell her that he was gone for good.
Lilian had been my everything, so I wanted to help her feel better, to move one, even if she still missed him. But she shut down, stopped talking to me. And I know I shouldn’t have, but I left. She kept telling me I couldn’t help her, and that I was worthless, that if she had been with her dad more instead of me, he would still be here.
I had given up on talking to her for the week, but then I saw her walking in the park. Out of impulse, I went up to her, asked if we could talk. She tried to walk away, but I followed. She ignored me all the way back to her house, even when I tried telling her that I loved her, that I would always be there for her, that she could tell me anything she needed to get out of her system. But she slammed the door on me,
I could tell she wasn’t okay, and I still had a key to her house, so I went in. She was in the kitchen, starting to make dinner. “Sit down.” she said. I looked at her questioningly. She looked straight through me. “What are you waiting for?! I said sit!”
So I sat. She rushed around the kitchen, banging pots and pans and gathering ingredients that made no sense together. I stood up.
“Lilian, are you alright?”
“I told you to sit down!” She was screaming at this point.
“Lilian, listen to me, Please, just talk to-”
“No! I said sit down! Stop telling me that everything is fine and that it’s going to be okay, and that everything I’m feeling is normal! I lost my only living parent, the only person who ever cared about me! I! Am! Alone! But you wouldn’t get it, because everyone cares about you! Just get out of my life!”
“Lilian, you need help. You can’t live like this. I’ll go if that’s what you want, but then you would be really alone. I love you, Lilian. I always will, and I’m so glad I have you. I don’t want to lose you. I need you.” I’m crying but she doesn’t seem to care.
She pauses, silent, except for the sound of her breath hitching as she cries. “I love you too, Jack.”
I move toward her, and wrap my arms around her. We stay there like that for a while, just hugging her, crying, while I tell her how much I love her.
I whisper, “He may be gone, but you can still talk to him whenever you want to.” Her eyes go wide, and she gets mad again, shoving me away.
“He’s not gone! He’s coming back! He would never leave me!” She’s back to screaming, “I know he’s not gone. You’re both just pranking me. He’s on vacation somewhere. That’s where he’s been! That’s why he’s been gone! Don’t lie to me!”
She picks up the cutting board off the floor, washes it, and starts haphazardly chopping onions and other vegetables.
“Be careful, you’ll hurt yourself. Do you want me to do it instead?” I ask, hoping she’ll put the knife down before she cuts herself. I walk toward her slowly. “Honey, come relax for a few minutes. I grab her arm gently, trying to ease her out of whatever came over her, like I did before. “Lilian. Lilian, I need you to talk to me.” With my other hand, I gently take her wrist, the hand she’s holding the knife with.
She seems to cooperate, but then her eyes go wide, and she realizes what I’m doing.
“Lilian, please, just calm down.” I tighten my grip just in case, but she’s faster than me. She slips out of my hold, and walks around to the other side of the island countertop.
“Lilian! Please, Lilian! We can work through this. You will be alright. I’ll get you someone to talk to. We can even go together if you want. I love-”
But she charged at me, and everything went black as my head hit the counter and I fell to the ground.
When I woke up, I could float, and go through walls, and no one could see me. I don’t blame her for what she did. She was hurt- and something was going on. She couldn’t help it. She wasn’t herself. I don’t think she ever will be again.
I watch her now, and she doesn’t seem happy, but she seems at peace. And I’m happy for her. She’ll make it. Even if I didn’t.
question the first
the question of “searching for a road to follow.”
the question haunts me often- most doggedly in mitski’s ‘francis forever,’ in which I am often inclined to replace the line “i’ve been trying to lay my head down” with this one of my own invention- “i’ve been searching for a road to follow.” the rest of the phrase accommodates my substitution actually quite nicely- “i don’t know what to do without you / i don’t know where to put my hands / i’ve been searching for a road to follow / but i’m writing this at 3 a.m.”
and so, the question remains.
why- from where- did i choose this line?
it carries a sense of eerie familiarity, but i have never wanted to probe the matter further- possibly for fear of discovering that someone before me has already made every connection i have.
after all, nothing under the sun is new.
the question grabbed me by the shoulders once again in my perusal of joan didion’s “the year of magical thinking.”
her desperate struggle for the straight and narrow- studiously avoiding every object, place, memory, recollection that might lead her back- back into a divot of her own imagination- the sullied road of grief and mourning, as opposed to the socially-sanitized ‘healing.’
a teatime objective. finally alright- finally safe- to air the corridors of grievance for the public eye.
she quietly shuts off every water main- every breaker- that could lead her back to the mansion of memory that is john.
the question still hovers.
she learns which thoughts are safe and which are not. she learns to avoid sunset boulevard in california and the bend across the pond in central park.
she donates sweaters, books, fine china.
she searches diligently for the road to follow.
but she does not donate his shoes.
perhaps the road has failed her.
perhaps the road was altogether something else- it kept her off ledges and bridges and that could be enough.
is the road to follow grief? is it closure? is the road the metaphor or the objective? what of following it? how will we know which road and when? is the search for the road to follow, the road itself?
the question peers through my eyes.
“searching for a road to follow.”
a road. not the road. any road. any crumb of foam to keep us afloat in our empty seas.
C.S. Lewis, following his wife’s death, said of his thoughts- “so many roads once; now so many cul de sacs.”
“francis forever” is on the radio. the question follows in my footsteps. fumbled words like a toddler first learning to write.
“i’ve been searching for a road to follow.
i end up on a tree-lined street.
i look up through the gaps of sunlight.
i miss you more than anything.”
Reaching out, touching your hair, it's so soft, it smells like coconuts this time. I'm not sure which level of girlfriend hell you are yet but I pray it's not the last one. She was so proud, almost bubbly, confident in everything she did. She is beautiful; in a tragically broken way. Please tell me, end my darkness, answer me!? Which level are you, I must know, just tell me, I wont be angry, I promise. She turns to face me, tears in her eyes, pain and sadness streaking down her cheeks. She smiles, I know its fake, it has been for awhile, but she tried and that's all I ever asked for. I touch her cheek, wiping the tear away, tilting my head slightly to look in her eyes. “I am only me, undeniably shaken to my core by the hate in this world, frightened by the atrocities I feel, sickened by my own voice, maddened by my thoughts.” I stare at her, longing to ease her pain and fix whats missing. I turn the door and walk over turning around the one last time, smiling slightly at the reflection in the mirror.