The Beginner’s Guide Review

“Warning: Whisper Machine active – Self-destruction imminent.”

“Security hall breached – Hostile alien lifeforms inbound.”

“Enemy force neutralized – Begin ship evacuation.”

[dear m.,

the morning after the first night you stayed over, you wouldn’t let me make you coffee. we went on a date, had terrible sex, but good pillow talk. i could tell you were ashamed, of me or yourself, i’m not sure. but it was important to me, and you knew it, to please, have some coffee. and when you are drinking your coffee, and we will banter about something trite to pretend things were normal, i will make a parfait for the both of us. it will have granola, blueberries, peach slices, and honey. but you get to the door too fast, or just have half your coffee, or get ready when my back’s turned. but one time you humored me, even though you didn’t really see the point. watching you trudge through the food as quick as you could, i found, hurt even more.]

“Hey! You there- in the engine room! You can save us all! That beam is power the Whisper Machine. We could disrupt it by introducing a great enough heat signature. If you- your body could stop the beam. It’s so much to ask, but for all of our lives- would you do it? Could you give yourself?”

[i remember, it was christmas eve. it was going to be the first day i was a taken woman. the tile in my house was cold, but the morning light made the apartment seem so warm. or maybe it was just,

finally.

in the bathroom, my phone sat by the sink, flush against the corner of the counter closest to the shower. my hair was straight, so i pulled it back and under a shower cap. under the showerhead, i thought about running my hands through your hair.

my phone rang, it was you. swift, i dried a hand and answered. 10 hours in, you ended it. i spent christmas looking out the window.]

The past was behind her

But the future could not be seen

Why does the future                                                                      keep changing?

When she stops and looks                                                      it becomes clearer

But if the future is always behind her

How will she find the strength

To confront it?

[we tried to make up with making out. and more. it was always terrible, because you couldn’t wait for it. i think it’s because you’re so used to having people calling you intelligent that it seemed impossible to not have a natural intuition for what was in front of you. back at my place, where you unwelcomed, on your bed, where i wasn’t, up against the side of my car in front of your friends. it became a joke to me, on how awful us trying to restart things could be. i’m a little wiser now, so when you tried to connect again, drawing that line was my only choice. you might read this, and i’m sorry, i want you to stop.]

(There used to be a woman here. She’s gone now.)

[dear j.,

you gave me my first lesson in idolatry. it’s mundane, tedious, and nonconsensual. i didn’t think this was what it would mean to be a symbol. how couldn’t i be a muse? leaning across the top of a broad table, over panels of mœbius’ work, or stretched across the couch, legs up, watching a miyazaki film most likely, long stretches of silence as you sketched. always around, but arms length away. i think, you wanted to see that sort of future, but it was too expansive. it was easier to watch it from afar, pretending you’d never have any regrets. are you still too busy being young?]

[i hate it when the movies are right. you missed me when i intentionally disappeared. you returned all my calls after ignored yours. everything was the path of least resistance, so i embodied friction. i mean, you’ve seen tv, read a book or two, your need for freedom is a stereotype. you go out by yourself in the snow, to forests, or just your mind, but the moment you’re tasked to be alone with another, you’re gone, like all those old war planes you drew so much.]

[Lampost]

[Lampost]

[Lampost]

[when you inherited your house, i would help clean it, or tend to post-familial disputes. i admit, i enjoyed it, that place was a wreck. i could be there for a while. i watched junk go in and out. i watched other women do so too. eventually, it was my turn. i guess, i was just junk too. when i ran to san francisco, you called. i ignored it hoping it would spur a certain desire. i haven’t heard from you since. you’ll never read this. it’s probably best this way.]

The woman across the room, in this chair, is a professional photographer.

This is your chance to learn something from her, to gain something, to succeed.

Go on. Say something to her.

You’re letting your animal brain make decisions, be bigger than that and have actual conversation with her.

No nono that’s not what I said to her all.

Now talk to her again.

You’ll freak her out if the conversation gets that personal that quickly!

[Lampost]

[Lampost]

(Crying)

[Lampost]

(There’s a girl curled up on the couch in the furniture prison)

Ma’am! Glad to see you’ve arrived safely.

I intend to be brutal.

You stopped.

Your work was keeping us alive.

Those people out there, can you imagine what pain you’ve put them through?

I’ve been so alone.

Apologize for leaving me.

Think carefully, I know how to hurt you.

Alright then, I will apologize to the people on your behalf.

MY FOLLOWERS!

I have a troubling revelation.

The machine refuses to admit that it deliberately hurt us.

We will find a way to live without it! We do not need its games.

Let us pay it retribution!

Follow me! We will destroy everything that the machine has created!

[Lampost]

[dear a.,

the first time, when we almost weren’t we anymore, i didn’t think such a kind person could betray like that. i realize now that most of your actions were fueled by fear, and self-loathing. but then, you used a bandaid when you needed surgery. i keep looking back to that day, the branching paths, where i was happier biting the bullet seeing how unhealthy you were. i won’t be that forgiving ever again.]

[the second time, when we couldn’t stay apart for more than a week, i remember being at a cheap diner in the castro and trying to hear you out. the food was greasy enough to hurt my stomach and the waiter clearly wanted us to leave so he could close. i tried to hold my ground, knowing that things were wrong, but you insisted otherwise. you wanted your cake, and you couldn’t wait to eat it. back in your bed, i watched you cry. i think you were the first man i ever saw cry, in front of me. i admit, i enjoyed it. despite my protesting, we tried.]

[the third time, i laid a trap for you. i got you out here, and set time against you. a countdown for you to answer for all that you’ve done. if you didn’t think of anything, i said we wouldn’t see each other for a very long time. so it was a bit poetic when you just ran out, like you ran out before, emotionally, now physically. i knew you would invite the stalemate and keep your distance, it was something you always offered to do. to go away. but never to come closer. you might read this, and there is every part of me that wants you to figure yourself out and reach to me when you do. but you won’t, so now we’re stuck, apart, probably for the rest of our lives. i don’t think you can admit your transgressions, so until then, i miss you, but i need to ask you not to speak to me anymore.]

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