Jenny Bitner

A scrap of paper that says
12
3:30
4:30
6:15

a door marker from Friends of the Urban Forest with tree care on it

a Chicklets box

Safeway receipt
everday tea
yogi tea
o salsa
organics chipolte
organics garbanzo

yogurt
ww ice crm bars
string chse
org chs
horizon sr crm
Thomas multign
catfish
salami lite

Because she was having mental health problems. Because she liked to watch bees. Because she thought there was an order in paper. She stopped throwing anything out.

The papers soothed her and how could she throw out the bus transfer when her memory wasn’t that great and it reminded her of the day she went to the Museum of Asian Art and the person that she looked at on the bus, who was looking at her more than is necessary and who she swore had a bee in her ear, but then it was her stop and she looked back for a second and there it was the bee, not an incarnation of a bee, but a bee, if she could believe her mind.

And she kept articles about Indian reservations and traffic problems, frog deaths, dolls and whenever she was traveling in a small town she bought a newspaper and studied it. She liked articles about rodeo shows, buck hunting contest and 4 H clubs and anything that they would never dream of having in the paper here.

A little piece of nylon hem.

Do you like fries with that?

A mock u mentary about chickens.

A cult restaurant.

She bought intro to philosophy textbooks because they intrigued her. She hated advanced courses where everything that was a giant vague question becomes too specific. What is the meaning of life? What is knowledge? How do we know we’re not dreaming? She liked thinking about those questions. But she thought all of the answers, the answers where they try to solve these questions logically were bogus.

Any more specific than that and it became boring. She hated analytical philosophy because it crossed off old problems and left something without words. That question is meaningless—that’s a nice thing to say on your deathbed.

P 93.5W54 on a piece of paper
US Airways Charlotte to San Francisco Aug 29

And the meaningless ones were tumbling in their sleep and they said order was the best cocktail and even zen-men who she thought were cool said that a disordered space was the SIGN of a disordered MIND. Sign-mind and she liked the papers on the floor. She hated them.

An antique postcard with Trailing Arbutus on it—the Massachusetts state flower It says “Had the generation before us exterminated the arbutus, what a world of sweetness and sentiment would be lost to us!”

Benjamin Moore Color strip:
white chocolate, white marigold, mellowed ivory and timothy straw

She pictured them, her and her old boyfriend having a conversation on her deathbed. “I heard a fly buzz” would her mind be like that, just in this detail. Would a bee come and visit her the way it had on a dance floor once years ago, when she was in the right place at the right time, and a bee stayed on her hand while she danced with someone who was looking at her wildly in love.

She would say “What does it all mean?” and he should say, “That question is meaningless.” TKIM (To Keep In Mind): Let’s just start putting that in front of anything.

Socks papers

She started saving trash because recycling was downcycling and she wanted to upcycle. So she had to invent something meaningful to do with her trash. Art? Clothes? Maybe she could build a house out of it?

Read about read about read about

Sales receipt form Walgreens
Check stub
Tampon
Back strip from Maxipad
Tag from a new shirt
Flyer for a band
Photo of her and her sister at Christmas

Paper is everywhere
Box of contact lenses
Panty liners
Valentines note for

What was all this with paper and glue
And losing and clutching
She wanted to make a fort out of paper

Where she could crawl under and not come out

It was synchronicity this thing
Finding a clue to another life there

And the papers were piling up, so she could dive onto the floor and swim in them and when she was in her room with the door shut and the papers everywhere she felt safe.

A clean room is a sign of and what is a dirty room a sign of—a dirty mind of course.

Dirty with too many nooks and crannies.

The weight of trying to move was great. She found a lollypop on the floor, unopened; she had been saving there, and it was a treat.


Jenny Bitner’s fiction has been published in Mississippi Review, The Sun, Comet, The SF Bay Guardian, Fence, To-Do List Corium and PANK. Her story “The Pamphleteer” was selected by Dave Eggers for Best American Nonrequired Reading and incorporated into an opera by The Paul Bailey Ensemble.