AIR BALL

Molly Ledbetter

03.09.22

We know the sound of two hands clapping.
But what is the sound of one hand clapping?

— A Zen Koan




I finally watched Wanda.

A lot of smart people laud it, so I thought I should.

It depressed me, which I guess is the point.

I do keep thinking about it though.

Admittedly, I don’t enjoy “film.” I feel unintellectual and bad about myself because of that. It makes me fall asleep.

I used to live across the street from a playground where school kids screamed “air ball” all day long.

If it ever stopped, like for a second, my ears rang like what I imagine tinnitus feels like.

I only know what tinnitus is because I read about someone who committed suicide because of it.

I sort of liked the film Rope, though I don’t need to see it again.

I get the big deal about the one camera shot the whole time.





The intensity of the crush on J.S. is unusual considering my age.

It happened after I watched Ted Lasso.

I prefer fantasy to reality sometimes, though when my therapist uses the word “fantasy” it makes me uncomfortable.

Admittedly, the crush has really done something for me.

My therapist writes — hypo-mania?

I’ve noticed people fetishize talking about their therapists like they fetishize Joan Didion.

I’m not hypo-manic, for the most part.





The Rainbow Room was so elegant.

I remember seeing Dana Carvey ascend the steps once at an SNL afterparty.

He kept having to sweep his hair off his forehead.

I overheard one of the line cooks say make this cheeseburger good — it’s for Jon Lovitz.

I think I miss Jon Lovitz.

Maybe I’m obsessed with celebrity, but I don’t think that’s it.

I just want to be a part of something.

I spend a lot of time alone writing or trying to do nothing in a way that feels ok.

Football is a universal language.

J.S. talks about how team sports helped him become a better ensemble player, like when he was on SNL, which makes a lot of sense to me.

By all accounts, I have plenty of friends, although less now than I did.





I’ll never forget when Kate McKinnon sang “Hallelujah” after the 2016 election and Leonard Cohen had died.

I wept when My Fair Lady ended.

I cried during Little Shop of Horrors.

I fell in love with the Blue Men.

I live in a different neighborhood now.

I take different paths to the park so it doesn’t get boring.

I did go backstage to meet the Phantom of the Opera after I wrote him a letter, and gave him a painting I made of the mask.

There’s a corner where Jay and I carved our names in wet sidewalk once.

I felt confused when Fran Lebowitz made fun of The Phantom of the Opera. I don’t think Fran would like me very much. Among other reasons, I’m not a New Yorker.

I don’t indulge that particular fantasy anymore, for the most part.

But I am the starlight! though.

I am the type to think about things under a new moon.

The best artists know when to put the brush down.

I know my heart is still broken.

People change, so maybe that’s all it is.





I moved into the “air ball” room when I got broken up with.

I don’t remember the school kids then but they were probably there.

Jay encourages me to try the blood type diet first.

He eats mostly lamb these days.

I don’t know my blood type, so he guesses.

We used to eat a lot of Booza together, which is the oldest ice cream in the world.

The flavor I liked was made of rose petals.

There’s something in it that makes it stretchy, so it’s fun to eat.





I come here every day now and sit on the same bench unless someone else is sitting there.

Every afternoon, the park fills with school kids practicing track.

They wear school clothes, which seems crazy to practice in, but they’re young enough that they can do that.

They sprint in a forward barrel that if I were the coach would make me nervous.

If I had to listen to them shriek all day it would annoy me, but I’ve chosen to be here, so it’s amusing.

I write a lot of little poems here.

A cat crossing its legs in sand.

The contents of the refrigerator had already gone to powder.

The sound backgammon pieces make tumbling from a bag.

Spring came, but no leaves came.

Something I heard once from an actress.

Sing to it, I tell myself.

No metaphors.





I read an interview with a choreographer recently.

She said that everyone is dancing all the time. She talked about finding choreography in mundane places, like how people she observes move on the subway or street.

I thought about the way flowers bend.

I like when I come across anything that begets a different way of seeing. More than when I read John Berger’s Ways of Seeing in art school.

That book might not be about the same thing at all; I don’t remember.

On the subway, I watched a kid’s hand stroke a young girl’s long hair. I thought about how they’d probably break up soon, mostly because of how young they were.

I thought about the way it sounds on the inside when someone pets your head.

Choreography is also things we can’t see.

“Show Me Your Ars Poetica” is the title of a poem about a poem I wrote. What is it about? What is it about-about? J.S. asks that about movies he’s in, like We’re the Millers.

People say being cold is just a state of mind. Say you’re on the street and the wind is gusting you just breathe through it you can defeat cold.

I’m looking for that kind of secret correspondence.





When I saw the Kinky Prepster across the parking lot, I threw up a little in my mouth.

He said he named his cat after a character in a Salinger short story.

The cat is called Bananafish.

Considering the “why” of this feels like how I used to wear a locket with my dog’s fur in it for an afternoon before taking it off to shower and forgetting about it.

The K.P. comes from a long line of amateur race car drivers.

I wonder if his kinkiness is related, in any way, to his amateur race car driving status.

I write a letter to Fran.

Fran — I finally found that copy of Moll Flanders I’ve been looking for at a bookstore in Catskill, tucked behind a dusty stack of stacks.

I must admit that reading it felt like watching myself “do” the reading of Moll Flanders, instead of feeling the story in the elusive “core,” as I’m sure you would.

Sometimes I don’t even know how I feel until someone tells me.

I bet that never happens to you.

I see how right you are about the final scene in Act One, when the chandelier falls.

The thing is, I thought it was a powerful moment.

The K.P. wants to take me to one of those circular cabins that sometimes appear in the pages of Travel & Leisure.

The kind with the narrow slatted dock that goes all the way out to the sea and a thatched roof.

“ stars
“ stars
“ stars
“ stars
“ stars
“ stars
“ stars
“ stars
“ stars
“ stars

Two pumps and a bearhug.

“guffaw, guffaw”





People who brag about how they stop to touch softly every flower they pass are irritating.

I rarely pass a flower without bending to smell, but I do so privately and without fanfare.

I wouldn’t want to make someone feel bad about themselves that they passed a plant without taking note.

I am speaking specifically about A, though she also irritates me for other reasons.

Once, on the R train platform, I thought I saw A.

At one time, failure was really important to me.

Isn’t this “good enough” for you?

I steal a menu.

I watch the tennis players huff and puff.

People lunching on the grass.

I think back to the views from all my old windows.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

More than one falling down old church.

What is “that” anyway.

Nothing is like anything else.





If you go far enough south in Manhattan, it starts to feel like Boston.

Was that a seagull I heard?!?!

I don’t like Boston, but I don’t mind the Seaport because it feels like a movie.

I was down there in the Seaport and had to call a car.

A.W. says “trig dog,” which she made up. It’s funny because everyone is always saying triggered. Everyone is constantly being triggered and gas lit, myself included. Despite its overuse, it’s often the only word that works.

I was waiting on the corner for the driver to show up and I had nine minutes.

Phone time.

It’s not cool, and at the time I didn’t realize, that Uber keeps a record of all your trips.

Water finds its cracks.

I scrolled back to the night the relationship finally ended because I could. I pretty much raze anything that makes me think of something I don’t want to think about, a long employed tactic which, for the most part, works pretty well.

I see that I got dropped off at your place at 8:37PM and picked back up at 2:37AM.

Synergy!

The sound of a crow.

A sky filled with stars. Faces of people I know.

I see the driver’s name. I can even zoom in on the Pac-Man route he took back to where I lived then, which was the room that’s across the street from where school kids scream “air ball” all day long.

Since then I’ve taken 123 Ubers.

J.S. says the human body is made of 214 bones, and that they can all break. I don’t need to fact check that because it’s a metaphor.





I remember a miserable pizza.

I remember the unceremonious closing of a bathroom door that once would have been left open.

I remember a U-haul in the freezing rain, and Jay.

I remember a new walk to a new studio in the Navy Yard, which I hated because it was haunted and cold.

I remember leaving chocolate kisses on the desk we’d shared. I’d never do that now.





Julia tells me about the Christian Hipsters who work at the cafe.

They speak freely about worship schedules.

I make up a song.

I don’t spend time thinking about how I come across anymore.

I wouldn’t mind coming across as someone who doesn’t think about how they come across.

Before I lived there, but some friends did, we went out and I ended up running around the school kid block naked in the middle of the night.

I spent two full days hungover in that miserable room.

The last time we fucked was in that miserable room.

On the second day, someone brought me a turkey sandwich with sprouts.

My roommate caught a mouse with peanut butter on a coffee stirrer and put it out.

We called it the war of the roses.





A long time later, I saw your name in the gallery book uptown because I was late to the reading.

I was late because it was raining.

I had to wait for the first reader to finish at the front by the guest book, and I rested my elbow on your name.

I thought about the hand that had done the writing, and the last time it touched me, which was to pull loose the twisty straps of a bathing suit.

No, the last time was in the car on the way back, when I revealed something, and it was placed awkwardly on my shoulder to comfort me.

It was clear we had nothing to talk about.

Circle Jerk.

I love you for free.

An air ball is a shot that misses the backboard, rim, and net entirely.

J.S. says it’s best to end on a make.

I keep that in mind now whenever I practice anything.





I resisted reading the story because I find Salinger’s voice “triggering.”

The main character’s name is Seymour Glass. Like he “sees more,” but breaks like glass.

The epigraph is a riddle about hands clapping.

I don’t understand it, which I guess is the point.

I thought about the leaves of Aspen trees and how they clap in summer.

I thought about how they can undulate with the wind like a flock of birds.

I thought about the feeling of that sound.

I thought about your hand, and mine.

When I’m on the subway now, I try to make a motion of one hand clapping in case, by chance, there’s a choreographer around.

I’m not sure it would be clear to anyone what it’s meant to suggest.

Out of context, it looks a little like jerking off.

Molly Ledbetter lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Recent publications include blush lit and Iterant.

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