Reverse Fan Mail #1: Richard Chiem

We proudly present the first of our Reverse Fan Mail series. Reverse Fan Mails are made possible by generous donations. We then take the donor’s name (or a name of their choosing) and send it one of our favorite small press authors, who then write a piece of fiction or poetry based around that name.

First up is this piece, inspired in part by David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, by Richard Chiem. Chiem’s first book, You Private Person, is out now from Scrambler Books.


"For M.H. Simmons"


THERE WERE MONTHS where I have done the same things, for months at a time. Meals were interchangeable, my outfits moved on and off me, and there were days I had no opinion, my mind goes empty, walking home following palm trees. I remember looking around during different parts of the day: leaving the apartment complex, cruising around The Whole Foods near work, reading at a bar after work, having a smoke. Everyone was having a different conversation than I was; all the strangers, everyone was moving quickly in and out of the rooms we were in together, anxious to be somewhere in the future. I was watching and imagining I was away from here: I was gone, walking around with Frances, somewhere in Paris, going somewhere to be with friends. I don’t know why it was always Paris in the rain.

There were months I felt as though I had no head, or I did the same things for long stretches of time, and it became surreal. Days were less responsive. People often refused eye contact or looked spaced out. I pretended I was indestructible to pass the time, serving customer after customer at the movie theatre, and slept alone in bed when I was exhausted. I was watching wall clocks and digital timers. Sometimes, I would change positions in bed to try something else. My foot would be where my head was, and my head where my foot was. I slept every way I could in my twin bed, creating solitude.

I would walk in the daylight without wincing my eyes, thinking about Frances. It was my favorite activity, repeating routines, in uniform or in transit, until I would be closer to her. When we were reunited, it felt so good it was as though I survived some sort of close trauma or natural disaster, being away from her. Although there were days I felt nothing, I can make myself deaf and mute to almost every aspect.  I can be quiet in a room and feel alive.

The building could collapse onto me and I would still tell you I needed to get back home to her.


This piece made possible by a donation from Jeffrey Simmons. Check back soon for more Reverse Fan Mail pieces from authors like Chelsea Martin, Matthew Rohrer, Riley Michael Parker, James Yeh and many more.