the museum of americana

a literary review

Fistlike Mouth and Rotating Thoughts — Fiction by Sarp Sozdinler

She makes a list of all the people she’s hooked up with over the past nine months:

The guy who worked the ice-cream truck in Elmhurst Park.

The redheaded Subway cashier who had a constellation of pimples for face tattoos.

Her half-Russian stalker who looked like Mr. Meeseeks from Rick and Morty.

The German bodyguard who worked the front gate on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“Cornball Crawford,” that ducktail-wearing crackhead from Florida.

That nameless gap-toothed boy who popped up one day on New York’s crime map with a laundry list of offenses and disappeared as quickly after he’d battered a liquor-store owner on East 52nd with a dead stingray in his hands and a handful of meth in his blood.

Eli McSomething, the only other person she knew who had two different eye colors.

That pretentious NYU sophomore who spoke half-French, half-English at this Swedish exchange student’s farewell party.

Another college boy from Princeton who in his childhood photos bore a striking resemblance to Heath Ledger.

The twenty-three-year-old Republican who studied law and digested cases.

The thirty-seven-year-old Dutch man-boy who never voted.

The ageless lumbersexual with the kind of carpet beard you can grow only in Montana.

The twenty-something Virgo whose neatness was his standout feature.

The Asian chiropractor from Astoria whose shadeless skin she found unspeakably sexy.

The high-school teacher from the Upper East Side whose quiz sheets she considered selling in the black market.

The Star Trek fan who still lived with his uncle.

The fifty-something photographer from Alphabet City, the oldest man she’s ever been with, who dreamed of recording the landscapes of Mars one day.

The tall, babyfaced Californian she met at the turnpike in Newark whose better half of the genetics she’d love to see on her unborn son’s face.

So little she can recall, most with no names.

cc: (soft ambient music)

Fifty-thousand hours of video footage are uploaded online every day, wrote @weezer89, the only man she hasn’t yet met face to face, and who sent her a bullet list of links. In this ocean of content it is possible for her to find anything from recipes and Photoshop tutorials to movie reviews and viral videos that have nothing but mundane weirdness in the thumbnails.

Like this video of a middle-aged man who inconsolably cries over a bowl of soup in the presence of two men wearing giant papier-mâché masks.

The video of a Canadian student who behaves erratically in a hotel elevator in downtown Los Angeles and would later be found dead in the rooftop water tower.

A mannequin singing “I Feel Fantastic.”

A cult leader explaining how the souls of his disciples would be transferred to this spaceship after martyrdom.

A drone spotting a clown in the middle of a cornfield.

A man dancing and cooking mushrooms with a horse mask on.

A woman who claims to be a reincarnated squirrel as she keeps massaging a possum onscreen.

The music video of a Malaysian singer, which accidentally captured a suicide attempt in the background.

Dogs and cats seeing things that their owners cannot.

A ghost whose thermal energy is captured on Xbox Kinect.

A shopping cart drifting in the parking lot as if in the pull of an invisible force.

Every day for two weeks, from four-thirty to ten a.m., one video after another.

cc: (soft mysterious music)

Binge-watching continues on the road, across the heartland of America, like a southbound diet. On her plate this morning is what she’s tried to avoid all this time: mass suicides.

Here goes the video about the citizens of Astapa who allegedly burned themselves along with their cities.

And the video of the women of Souli who threw their children off the precipice, then jumped off to avoid capture by the Ottomans.

Kamikaze pilots of Japan flying their aircraft into Allied warships in WWII.

The wave of suicides throughout Germany in the final weeks of the Third Reich.

A thousand residents of Demmin who disappeared.

Seventy-nine people who died alongside their leader David Koresh after a fifty-one-day siege of Waco, Texas.

Forty-eight followers of Luc Jouret who committed suicide in the Swiss Alps, followed by another five in Canada.

Solar Temple. Adam House. Jonestown. So many dead people, most with no names.

She looks into the pixelated faces of the convinced people, then into the eyes of their convincers. What those influential men had in common were their words and whiskers, though the manipulative men of today entertain clean shaves in their profile pictures. Beard or no beard, each seems to be a doctor of twisting the soul, a master of purpose who is supposed to be trusted by their victims with all their hearts, like a priest or a shaman who performs the visionary magic of Valium, Xanax, and Ambien on the masses.

She can see it more clearly now: none of those victims were mentally deranged; they were sentimentally misunderstood. Much as @weezer89 is no Weezer; he is a wizard. It is the men like her father who are the real manipulators. Or maybe even her baby, with his fistlike mouth and rotating thoughts.

She’s been surrounded by them all her life, breath or no breath.

cc: (soft country music)

Not the links but the kicks in her belly wake her this morning. She climbs the border wall and looks back at the nation she is about to escape. She turns her face skyward and slides her tongue out to taste the wet miracle pouring down. Like most miracles, the rain doesn’t live up to her expectations. It is plain and steady. Harmless. Though for ants, it is probably a disaster. For birds: a burden. For her baby, it would prove peaceful and caress his eyes and ears like a river of white noise flowing backward, that first sight and sound of an upside-down sea. A sea with its own moves, its own purpose. It wouldn’t listen. It wouldn’t abide. It would keep sloshing at the shore until her friends and cousins and aunts and mom and dad and everyone she knows and loves in the world were soaked up.

The rain would only spare her baby. Then it would go away.

cc: (soft ambiguous music)

 

~~~

Sarp_Sozdinler_PortraitSarp Sozdinler (he/they) is a Turkish writer based between New York and Amsterdam. His work has been featured or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y, No Contact, Solstice, Passages North, and The Offing, among other publications. Some of his longer pieces have been selected as a finalist at literary contests, including the Waasnode Short Fiction Prize judged by Jonathan Escoffery. He is currently working on his first novel. Learn more at http://www.sarpsozdinler.com. 

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