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Meghan Greeley | Issue 29
The vocal cords look like a vagina. I have seen a video of this. They are fleshy pink bands slapping together.
Excerpt from Jawbone by Meghan Greeley
The vocal cords do not atrophy. The larynx is a multi-purpose room. Of course, I swallow still. I clear my throat: a habit now, an empty signal.
The vocal cords look like a vagina. I have seen a video of this. They are fleshy pink bands slapping together. I once read about a man in the Ozarks who woke from a nineteen-year coma. He couldn’t remember anything after 1984, the year of his accident, but seven thousand days of dormancy can’t stop the cords from thrumming to life. He said mama. Then he said Pepsi and then he said milk. The brain goes soft, but the voice is always ready, waiting.
If you think this video is for you, it’s not. No—it’s for you, but not to you. I’d explain it properly if you were here, but you’re not here, and anyway, my mouth is wired shut. Well—the wires are gone now, but I’m still shut. I can’t talk yet, but it isn’t a head thing.
It is a head thing, you would probably say, or is your mouth on your ass?
I should say: it isn’t a brain thing. I was wired shut, and then a man put his latex fingers in my mouth and cut out the wires with gardening shears, and now the ghosts of the wires wire me shut. Like when a fence is knocked down but you’re in the habit of walking around it. You just walk right around it.
This room is the world now. Here are the given circumstances: the world beyond these walls no longer exists, and so this one-room cabin has become my lone little planet. When a gale batters the tin roof, it is not a north wind but the solar winds or some such science thing, rattling me in my solitary orbit. I should clarify: the sun is still the sun in this scenario, but I have censored it like the proper nouns of a wartime letter. Heavy blackout curtains hang like never-evers, like the enemy must not discover light. Do these curtains hide a magic hour or a witching hour? I don’t know, and the enemy wouldn’t either. I bought them at a convenience store on the highway, the kind that sells cigarettes and canned soup but also party supplies and plastic barrels, and the plastic barrels were cash only. (Nothing else was cash only.) When I opened the package, a little nest of dead baby spiders tumbled onto the floor. They were mummified and milky, yet almost transparent in places. You know opals? Like that.
Sometimes, when I sit in the dark, I try to listen to the Foley of the world. This whimper of metal is a swivel chair. That sigh of mass displacing air is me with my toes tucked under the seat, letting velocity twist me slowly, slowly clockwise, the pathway of time and unusual planets. I hear things you can’t hear beneath a midday sun. I hear things you can hear beneath a midday sun too, but I hear them more so. Breathing. The acidic murmurs of my stomach. The beep of my watch: four in the morning. Astronauts still wear watches, like me.
I can hear the ocean. I try not to hear the ocean; I should acclimatize myself to the sounds of an ocean-less world. I should only perceive, as an exercise, the contents of this room, the creak of the iron cot, the wind in the cold woodstove. The groan of the floor, its boards settling with the night. Groaning under the weight of my suitcase, which vomits its contents onto the shiplap, because in my secret life I am messy, and besides, the camera can’t see it.
I do not hear the camera, sitting silent and sentinel on its tripod, but I see it. I see its little light. I see it like a distant star whose radiation has found me here. It’s the only thing that interrupts the darkness. A pinprick of red: recording.
The camera has been recording for thirteen minutes. The rules say that I am only allowed to speak for one minute. This was not the winning take. This was the seventy-eighth not-winning take. I knew it was another failed experiment the moment I pressed record and started listening to the light bulb. My head was beside a lamp, and I could hear electricity coursing through the filament. The bulb hummed in a key I didn’t like, so I turned out the lamp and let the camera document the dark and the nothing and me in the dark with nothing to say.
I found this cabin on Airbnb. I messaged the owner and said, I’m looking for the loneliest place in the world. I said, I’m in the market for an indefinite sojourn. I said, I’m looking for the kind of place that will make me feel like I’m the sole occupant of a distant planet without water or oxygen or microbial life. The owner messaged me back and said, I’ve never rented it for more than three nights but okay.
I shower daily. I have been here for twenty-nine days and so I have taken twenty-nine showers and I have learned that this is the lifespan of a bar of Irish Spring soap if you are rigorous, which I am. I like the stench of it, of using this daily ritual as a marker of time. It takes three and a half hours for my dripping hair to dry completely. Once it is bone dry, the morning is over.
After the shower, my body is vermillion. The only way I feel clean is to scald my skin until it is red and raw.
This morning I walk barefoot and naked from the steaming bathroom to the blender. I make a smoothie from a banana and Greek yogurt and pomegranate juice and a stale cherry muffin. The smoothie is red, like me. Red as the light on the camera: still recording. I did not turn it off before falling asleep, I realize, and the memory card is robust.
I look at the camera and imagine I am on a YouTube cooking show. Just throw the whole muffin right on in there! That’s what I’d say. That’s the extent of my skill level. A few weeks ago, I’d continue, I put a slice of pizza in the blender with a dipping sauce. I had to add water because the pizza and the sauce would not liquefy.
Subscribers, I’d say with great solemnity, I don’t recommend it.
I imagine that the YouTube video is removed because I am naked and it violates the terms of service. My nipples and the dark patch of hair between my legs have violated someone else’s terms.
Maybe, I think, I will not say a minute’s worth of words. Maybe I will show a minute of myself, exposed and unafraid, to prove that I have graduated beyond social conventions like shame of a naked body. Where I’m going, the rules won’t apply.
I drink my muffin smoothie through a straw, sucking the thick, starchy liquid through my teeth. It’s amazing how much living you can do without opening your mouth at all.
Excerpt of Jawbone published with permission of Radiant Press.
Order Jawbone from Radiant Press.
Meghan Greeley is a writer, editor, performer, and director originally from Corner Brook, NL. Her poetry, prose, and scripts have been published in The Stockholm Review of Literature, Ephemera, Metatron's ÖMËGÄ project, Riddle Fence, Humber Mouths 2, The Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Drama (Vol. 1), and the Playwrights Canada Press anthology Long Story Short. She was a 2016 nominee for the RBC Tarragon Emerging Playwrights Prize and is currently the Writer in Residence at Memorial University. Her play Hunger was shortlisted for the 2023 Winterset Award. Her stage plays have been produced in Toronto, Halifax, and across the island of Newfoundland. She currently lives in St. John’s, NL.
Jawbone by Meghan Greeley Radiant Press, 2023
A young woman has one minute to speak on a submission video to win a one-way trip to Mars, a location she views as the ultimate escape. As she barricades herself in a cottage by the sea and prepares to record, she examines her fixation on the colour red, shame, guilt, a dramatic breakup with her boyfriend, and the breakdown of her relationship with her best friend. There is another problem however, her jaw has been wired shut for a long time, and shes having trouble speaking. A passionate story about queer love and loneliness and a dazzling debut from author Meghan Greeley.
Send My Love to Anyone | Issue 29
Issue 29 Gatherings
Excerpt from Jawbone (Radiant Press) by Meghan Greeley
The First Time “Prissy” by Kirby
On Self-Promotion by Kathryn Mockler
Sign up for Where Do I Start? | Writing Prompts & Resources by Kathryn Mockler
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