The 12-Year Deadline
I've never been great with deadlines, but when I set out to write The Fetish Alphabet, I had no idea it would take me 12 years to finish it. But, it did.
In 2002 (as I recall it, and since this story covers many years, it's possible I'm misremembering parts of it), I reached out to Andrew Gallix at 3:AM Magazine. Andrew teaches at the Sorbonne, and 3:AM's slogan is "Whatever it is, we're against it," a phrase I wouldn't mind having pounded into my gravestone. (You can read more about 3:AM's illustrious history here.) I believe I pitched him the idea of a fetish alphabet. An alphabet. Of fetishes. A series of flash fictions exploring erotic derangements. He must've said yes because at some point off we went. A Google search reveals I wrote six installments -- A through F -- which were published between August and November of 2002. And then, for reasons I can no longer recall, I stopped.
A year later, I published You're a Bad Man, Aren't You? with Future Tense Books. It was a collection of short stories I'd written and included a few of the fetish stories. That same year, I worked with artist Anthony Ventura on an illustrated version of The Fetish Alphabet. He beautifully illustrated the stories I'd written, and I wrote some more. I mean, look at this illustration for "A Is for Anthropophagy." Amazing. Some recent poking about online indicates I rewrote some of the letters -- for example, I changed "B Is for Bestiality" to "B Is for Bukkake" -- and I believe we got as far as O. And then, for reasons I can no longer recall, I stopped.
Of course, this always bugged me -- the whole lot of it. That I had started it and not finished it. That it had been one thing and then another thing but never a finished thing. That I had said I would do it, yet in the end I had not. Over the following years, life happened. I moved, and I was broke, and I got sideswiped by Hurricane Katrina, and I moved again, and I worked as a waitress, and I moved again, and I got married, and I had cancer, and I got better, and we moved, and so on and so on. Buffeted by the waves, I suppose, or perhaps more like a drunk weaving back and forth across the road of life. Depends on how you look at it.
One day this year, I woke up, and I wasn't moving anymore, and I wasn't broke anymore, and I wasn't single anymore, and I wasn't sick anymore, and I wasn't in the eye of a storm anymore. Still, I had spent a lot of this year feeling like I was failing at things. Or at least not particularly succeeding at things. I wanted to do one thing and finish it. One. Thing. For fuck's sake. So I would know that I could. In that spirit, in November, I undertook a 30-day yoga challenge, and, to my quasi-surprise, I finished it. And then I set out to write 30 fictions in 30 days on my blog, and I did that, too. And after the former and during the latter, I emailed Andrew again, 12 years after the fact, and I asked if he would be interested in me finishing The Fetish Alphabet, and, luckily enough, he was kind enough and generous enough to give me the space to do it. The subject of my email to him on November 21: "An indecent proposal."
Today, the alphabet is done through W. I found a few of the ones I'd written along the way -- H, M, and O -- and the rest were lost. As of this writing, you can read The Fetish Alphabet through Q at 3:AM. A lovely woman named Emma posts them. That means X, Y, and Z are the only ones left. I told Andrew I'd do one every day, and for a while I did, but I ended up missing a few days here and there. Right now, that 12-year deadline is so close I can taste it, and you know what it tastes like? It tastes like rich New Orleans soil and bloody surgical gloves, aviation fuel perfume and prickly south Texas cacti, plastic bags filled with lavender air and the inside of an over-worn wedding ring. Surely, there are fetishes for all these things, including finishing things.