Two Pieces of Flash Fiction by Chelsey Clammer
In a single text message, I'm told four versions of the same statement. This is a symptom of Intoxicated Looping Language disorder (ILL). It’s an epidemic. Each second of every day someone is sending an inebriated text message. While receivers may be able to vaguely discern what the texter is yammering on about, as the percentage of alcohol in the texter’s blood increases, her opinions and ideas eventually funnel down to one particular focus, thus creating a language loop. For instance, shortly after my grandfather died, my alcoholic aunt who had recently graduated from rehab began to display the classic symptoms of this disorder, evidenced by the following text message: “I need to get the mortuary an obituary today because they’re going to post it online so I need it today so that the mortuary can post it online and then his obituary can be posted online, and so I need the obituary today before they post it online.” This type of circular vernacular is brought on by the belief that what the texter has to say is really important and it needs to be fully understood because this statement is so important and that it really, truly needs to be fully understood and so in order for the statement to become fully understood one must repeat this really important statement until the text receiver fully understands the importance of this statement.
The next night, my aunt’s language looped around the niceties of the mortuary guys. They came over and broke into her dead father’s safe for her, but when she told this story to my sister a few minutes later, my aunt explained how she took the safe to the mortuary and then the mortuary guys who she loves oh so much broke into it for her. “Oh I just love my mortuary guys. I just love them.” While the connotations of claiming the people who attend to your dead for you are yours could be discussed here, the focus of this article needs to reside on people who are ILL, which at one point would have included me. Currently, I'm three-and-a-half years sober. Being sober has diminished the number of people in my life who drink to a grand total of two, and so I rarely have to deal with ILL people. There’s Aunt Lush who took a break from sobriety while she tried to comprehend the fact that her father had become a goner, and my boss who texts me odd, unrelated statements followed by four successive exclamation points at least five nights a week. Yes, my exposure to ILL people is very marginal. For this, I feel blessed. I no longer have to spend long hours assuring an inebriated person she is right she is right she is right she is right. The amount of looping language in my life has, thankfully, dwindled. In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to every person I encountered while drunk. I, too, was a textbook case of an ILL person. I hope everyone understands the importance of this apology. I am so very sorry. My apologies.
“I think I was black in a previous life.”
A few hours after our grandfather dies, I'm on the phone with my sister—she’s in Texas, I'm out here in Colorado where the dead grandfather now resides in ghost form—and she’s crying and when she’s not crying she’s sounding like a scared kid who is scared to death by the fact of death. When her scared sobs die down a bit so she can breathe, she says, “I think I was black in a previous life.”
Note: we are very, very white.
“I mean, I wasn’t slave black, but, like, 1970’s revolutionary black. Think about it. I was born in 1980. There’s some black guy who was a revolutionary in the 70’s, and he’s walking down the street in some platform shoes and feathers in his hat looking all pimpin’ and then a Cadillac hits him and bam, I get his soul. I'm telling you man, I was black.”
I ask her how she came about this theory.
“Because black people like me.”
And she enters into a story about how yesterday some black guy was delivering jugs of water to her workplace and she cleared some stuff out of the way so he could have a clear path to the water cooler in the back. They got to talking and were laughing and what not, but then he said he needed to go finish his deliveries.
She made a comment: “Want me to go with you so I can roll out a red carpet for your arrival?"
He laughed, though because my sister is telling this story I don’t know if really he laughed.
She continues their (mutually jocular?) conversation. “Well shit man, I've already done half of your job for you.” Re: moving stuff out of his way. On the phone. she declares another laugh erupted from his lips. But now her laughs turn into something else, transform into some more sobs—I'm assuming this is about the fact of grief—sounding all kid-like again. And then when her sobs caused by a dead grandfather cease ten second upon their re-arrival, this is what she says to me: “See? Black people like me. I had to have been black in a previous life.”
Not slave black, mind you. But 1970’s revolutionary black. Fist in the air black. A 1980’s pimp platform-shoe-wearing black.
A few days after dead grandfather became dead, I inherited his 1994 Cadillac. Now, when I drive around town, I keep an eye out for a pimpin’ 1980’s-looking black guy, wondering if, should I find him, I should hit him dead, so thirty years from now some other white woman can distract herself from sobbing about a dead grandfather by thinking about why black people like her, the theory of which will strengthen her sense of having a heritage—a recently acquired desire as her elder relatives start to go dead.
Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women's Studies from Loyola University Chicago, and is currently a student with the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program. She has been published in The Rumpus,Atticus Review, The Coachella Review and Make/shift among many others. She received the Nonfiction Editor's Pick Award 2012 from both Revolution House and Cobalt, as well as Pushcart Prize nomination and an honorable mention for Best of the Net 2012. Clammer is a columnist for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, as well as the Managing Editor, Nonfiction Editor and workshop instructor for the journal. She is also the Nonfiction Editor for The Dying Goose. Her first collection of essays, There is Nothing Else to See Here, will be published by The Lit Pub in Fall 2014. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.com.