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Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (is literally everywhere and 14 billion years ago there was nothing here)

The dog was barking again.

It was past 4 a.m. and my stomach was in a knot and I had been trying to type it out since yesterday. I think. I think yesterday was yesterday—yes, it was definitely yesterday; I remembered the bowl in the sink from breakfast, dried cornflakes caked to its sides, a browning banana peel and a scrunched tissue. What a mess.

Write what you know. I read the words over and over in my mind and I hated myself. How trite. I alt-tab’d to my browser and refreshed a feed and read some words and felt my balls for a while—not in a sexual way or anything. Just checking, I guess.

The dog was barking again and I stood up. I felt larger than I was and I looked down at my keyboard and it was so far away. I was high. I walked into the kitchen and sniffed my fingers and they smelt like a burnt roach—like last November, sitting on your bed and sharing a bong, the silence of the grey morning wafting into the open window.

The dog looked up at me and it looked like he was smiling.

“Stupid fucking dog,” I said, opening the door to let him out. I watched him walk down the stairs and followed him onto the grass.

I stared at the moon as I pissed and thought about a poem I wrote 5 months ago. It was about the moon. It was pretty cool, I think. You liked it—on Tumblr, as well. You didn’t always do that, and you never liked the poems I wrote about you either so it must have been good.

The dog was taking a shit and the sound of my piss stabbing into the night’s silence reminded me of where the ground was. I shook off the last few drops and felt one land on my foot and I wiped it off with my other foot. For a while I just stood there, acutely aware of the sensation of grass beneath my feet. The world was so beautiful when it was asleep and I hated myself for knowing this.

The dog was barking again and inside was warm. My stomach still ached and I looked at the left overs from dinner and I looked at the microwave and I looked at the clock and it was already 5 and soon it was going to be bright. I looked at myself in the reflection of the kitchen window and I felt like static on a television screen. Cosmic microwave background radiation is understood to be left over thermal energy from when the universe started. It is literally everywhere and 14 billion years ago there was nothing.

Write what you know. I knew of nothing. My mind was full only of memories of a future that never existed and I was tired. I knew nothing. I knew the sound of a car door slamming and an engine starting. I knew what it felt like to watch a part of myself shrink and fall off the horizon into tomorrow’s sunset. I knew what regret tasted like. I knew nothing. I knew what your saliva tasted like. I knew what the back of your head looked like at 4:32 in the morning and I knew that I could never fall asleep after a fight.

I knew that those moments made me more aware than ever of the impermanence of everything, your pillow damp with the moisture from your breath, dry and stale by the morning. The corners of your lips grew heavier each week and you looked at me differently on Wednesdays when you had Thursday off because there was another union strike. You looked hungry—no, starving, as if freedom was all that was needed to remind you of how trapped you were here. There have been 14 deaths in this city in the last year and 8 of those are metaphorical.

I saved the text file and rolled into my sheets. They smelled like a burnt roach. They smelled like a browning banana peel. They smelled like grass.

The dog was barking again and it sounded like yesterday.

The sheets smelled like tomorrow.

Overall



I hate you, and I'll explain. I hate you because I'm trying to review blind, dammit, but – Kenji. If you didn't write this somebody's gonna be embarrassed. Most likely me. Having a voice that strong is not a bad thing by a long shot, I just hate you because I was trying to review somebody I didn't know and I should've just skipped this piece but I didn't. Whatever, I'm just going to continue on like I don't know it was yours.

I'm fond of the title and where it comes from, but I feel like there could be more in the text surrounding it somehow. Almost like, I'd like it if it was even more tangential.

When I read this through the second time, I made notes. I'll share them. They are, in their entirety:
no remember
repeat at least 3x
"of"
not sold on the ending

The first references that first full paragraph, where the cereal bowl was remembered. No, the cereal bowl wasn't remembered, it was seen. That whole idea of not knowing what day it is – don't remember things. You don't remember something, you observe something that reminds you "oh, yeah, I did that yesterday." You didn't remember the cereal bowl – you saw the cereal bowl.

3x: There's this thing I believe in (don't ask me why) that if you repeat something twice, it looks like an accident; repeat it three times (or more) and it's intentional and resonant, thematic. You did this with the dog barking but not with "write what you know" and it would've been more complete if there'd been another repeat of that. What would you add? I don't know; you're the writer. But three times. Three times is good. Three times means something. (See what I did there?)

I'm being stupid about this review. Alright. "of." Towards the end, you start adding it, and you don't need to. "Write what you know. I know nothing." Maybe you did that earlier as well, I'm too lazy to go back up and double-check. For some reason, if you think about it (and most people don't, really, but you should assume they do), knowing "of" nothing is quite a bit different from knowing nothing. Knowing "of" nothing almost implies nothing is something that could be known, and in this case you know it – in the way one might say "I know of physics," to mean they're aware of the science though they might not be an expert to any degree. I'm not sure which you intend, or if you even intended there to be a distinction, or if you even know what I'm on about. But it's a thing I noticed.

The final thing I noticed (appropriate as the piece ended) was that I wasn't sold on the ending. And I'm still not. Those last two lines are set apart, so I really feel like they should kick me in the gut, but they don't. The dog bit is good -- but given the previous paragraph, the sheets? I just don't buy it. I get it; I do. I just don't buy it. It doesn't have the impact I want it to. I realize precisely how unhelpful this observation probably is.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece, as always. Thank you for not giving Joyce any more cocaine. You have run-ons here but they're hemmed in and actually work well. I'll try to remember to glance at this tomorrow and see if I can come up with anything to better explain what I was on about with the end. Or not. I never know how to end things (clearly).