I spent the past few weeks rehearsing the confrontation I intend to have with this man whenever he finally acknowledges that I still exist. As my preferred approach to alleviating the pain of his absence and occupying myself during these intervals as they become more and more frequent, I am always doing this with him in one way or another: All of my works of “fiction” are discussions that would benefit us both to have and for that, will never be held, or amendments made to arguments so their conclusion resulted in progress being made in our relationship. “Relationship.”
In real life, this is never the case. We both give our best performance, dancing around what we desperately wish to say, and are no longer surprised when our output reflects the lackluster effort we put in. Nothing ever changes but the subject, cautiously, like an attempt to recover an awkward interaction with a stranger, and we both sleep decently knowing that our days’ level of chaos never really elevated above “average.”
It probably portends something about my writing career that the only thing I have ever penned that is teeming with enough metaphors to be dissected in a community college course is my “hot dog story,” “My Only Sunshine” from Nothing I Do Is Funny Anymore. As I personally read books, I diligently comb through every line, desperately looking for a passage that encaptures my precise emotions and describes them in a way that I wish I could, so I suppose it’s only appropriate that I, a “writer,” finally wrote it — the one — myself. It is even more fitting that as the writer, it took me a month after the story was released to the public to distance myself enough from sentence structure and formatting and punctuation placement to acknowledge and give myself praise for what I had accomplished with my words.
“My Only Sunshine” is a common story, really… Certainly relatable to someone, even if only to an ambiguous, open-to-interpretation extent. One character appears to have everything they ever wanted, though such a successful lifestyle always requires a certain amount of sacrifice, typically in personal relationships. Our version of this character profile struggles to form a deep, visceral, genuine connection with everyone they meet; by chance, they encounter our other main character who suffers from the same lack, but for entirely opposite reasons: it is not an eminent “immortal entity”; its existence is dismissed as worthless by most — “…far beyond its expiration date, discolored and greasier than anyone would hope to find it, and misshapen from being handled constantly.”
That’s me. That’s my character. I am a whore. I am dead and don’t know well enough to lie down because I can’t smell myself.
In this story, I am a hot dog.
My muse for this particular absurd essay plays himself, feeling disparaged by the realization that his long-awaited and well-deserved deification did not quell his loneliness, only heightened it, likely securing its permanence. Our two main characters, enchanted by this uncustomary, instant connection, immediately form an illogical, fatal attachment to one another. They were able to bask in the sudden abundance of unfamiliar intimacy at first, but the story takes place once the grave reality of their situation becomes too blatant to ignore and tensions begin to rise: This will not last — they cannot be — there is nothing to be done about it.
In real life, my muse’s ambiguity, reticence, temporization — dishonesty, really — regarding why we cannot be together has been extraordinarily painful for me. The possibility that he cares about me too much to admit that despite our profound connection and all the years of palpable emotions behind it, I am not good enough for him to view me as anything more than a friend, hurts.
To eliminate the constant, unspoken uneasiness brought on by this lingering uncertainty, I made the reason behind our inevitable doom in “My Only Sunshine” obvious, even to someone hopelessly hopeful like myself: My character is a fucking hot dog, and he is a human. (To quote the horrendously written, bizarre fanfiction written about him that I absolutely plagiarized when writing the story: “Stop being dumb. He’s a human and your [sic] a hot dog.”) Their separation is inexorable and this will not have a happy ending. Everyone knows this; our two characters know this; still, they cling to the comfort of ignoring and prolonging the inevitable, though ironically, the hot dog appears to be the more grounded and shrewder of the two, perhaps due to an awareness that something like this was never meant to happen to It and should have never happened to It. It had only one path and was somehow thrown down another as if It were mistaken for something else, something luckier. Deceived by a false promise of glory, me, the hot dog, temporarily believed that it somehow deserved this stroke of luck as if it were Its destiny — “It didn’t know what it really deserved because it was a hot dog, but wanted whatever he would give it. It was only speculating on what being sliced in half and grilled to serve truly felt like because he saved it from such a fate.”
Following that paragraph, we jump forward in time, to where this once glorified aberration has lost its luster for the hot dog. It can see that to be teased with something so intangible is unfair and wishes that It had just been allowed to serve Its only true purpose for the other character, or for anyone: to be eaten. Still, it is hurt when he suggests that he feels the same, even though he appears to be only teasing — “You hate me and regret ever meeting me and want me gone. Eat me, then. I’m fucked and spoiled. I’ll poison you.”
The hot dog is physically incapable of removing itself from the situation and feels intrinsically powerless compared to him. To the hot dog, he is a God and It is nothing; much like a human, this was an attempt to bargain with the gods.
Now, how is he feeling about their impending doom? We don’t know because he won’t say. He actively participates in the conversation — “Am I not listening to you right now? It sure seems like we’re having a conversation.” — but infallibly deflects when the hot dog broaches the subject of their (lack of a) future together, eventually admitting that he “hasn’t thought about it,” but is that the truth? As a reader, an impartial observer, what do you think? I’ve had to ban myself from wondering.
The story ends inconclusively, though their fate was foreshadowed numerous times as a motif. The readers know what happened to them for it seems undeniable, and yet, I, the author, still don’t! I am waiting to find out!
Alas, the dialogue in this story was based entirely off a real argument that took place over text messages, reworded and corrected to be suitable for print because I was drunk and he is an idiot. If I were to write a sequel and adhere to historical accuracy, the hot dog would still be propped up in Its mug full of ice, horrendously dilapidated beyond belief. It would spend more time locked away in a corner of his fridge because It is repulsive to look at and Its effluvia has grown unbearable: It’s truly disgusting. He may keep It in Its own separate fridge so he can keep It hidden from everyone else, just like he does to me.
While the hot dog has repeatedly begged to be discarded, he will not get rid of It because he still needs It; though he refuses to admit it, the hot dog was right: He has yet to meet anybody he can talk to in the same way. “…Entertaining, bullshit conversation that doesn’t mean a thing. That was all you knew before I came around and that’s all you get when I am gone.”
He cannot fathom a day where everything is too much and too loud and too painful and the hot dog is not there to calm him, which the hot dog always does, nevermind that everything for It is also too much and too loud and too painful and It can no longer ignore how he involuntarily cringes at the sight of It. It continues to welcome when It is needed by him because he is all It has. The only remaining hope the hot dog has resides in why he is so obviously reluctant to irrevocably part ways.
That is why, despite tirelessly drafting and rehearsing how I would promptly dismiss the man behind the story when he summoned me, just as he always does, when he opened my fridge door, I was disarmed.
“Hello. What have you been up to?” He asked.
Metaphorically rotting in a mug full of ice, long-since melted into water from neglect, waiting for you to remember where you last left me.
“Influencer shit, a little bit of editing. How’ve you been?” I said.
“I’ve been so depressed the past few weeks and it’s gotten bad enough that I stopped eating. Today is the first day that I have forced myself to clean and catch up on projects. Just wanted to see how you were doing and let you know where I’ve been, in case you were wondering.”
Oh, no. I didn’t wonder at all. You never crossed my mind. You rarely do. You see, I’m very busy.
“Oh, Christ. What’s going on?” I asked. “I know you prefer to retreat inward when something is awry, but you know I love talking to you, and I’m always here.”
Rotten but required, the hot dog responded, attentive and entranced because it still did not want to go away and continued to prefer to ignore that it was inevitable.
(Artwork by @maddykeener.art on Instagram.)