by Chandler Burr

Imaginary Oklahoma is an ongoing project in which some of today’s most important and influential writers combine with artists to provide a fictional take on this place we call home. Through a wide variety of voices, styles and literary devices, these works prove that “Oklahoma” is much more than a place, it’s an idea.

I learned how to identify an Oklahoma accent on a date. My mom’s from Corpus. It’s a subtle difference, but you can definitely tell. I was anxious. It wasn’t the guy, it was a bad time, my entire twenties. I wasn’t on venlafaxine and benzos yet. People talk about being in a drug haze.Iwasinahazefromalackof drugs. Not a haze—hyperkinesis, agita, bad judgments. It was summer in D.C., hot and humid. I can’t remember the guy’s name. I think we’d met at JR’s. He was handsome like Steve McQueen. He was shorter than me, maybe 5’8” and with a lanky build. I’m 6’1”. He had gray hair at twenty-whatever. I couldn’t believe how normal and masculine he was. It was so what I was looking for, but bipolar II took away, among other things, my ability to manage my own mind. We must have gone to dinner, in the Dupont Circle area, it’s where we clustered than. It is 1988 And Clinton hadn’t been elected yet. I was living there because by coincidence my grad school was on Mass Ave and 17th. Japanese political economy. Nihon no seiji-gaku. $20k a year.
I have this image of us walking on Connecticut Avenue. He was easy- going. I focused on his accent. I’m great at reproducing accents.
He invited me back, or else we sort of drifted back to his place. It was still light out. He had the air blasting. We did a little of that yes-no-maybe dance but got to making out pretty fast. Anything I wanted in those days, I somehow screwed it up. I’d gotten him down to just his jeans. He’d been drinking a Coors. His frame felt even slighter now my hands were on him, but he felt strong. He grinned. “You wanna try and take me?” The Oklahoman accent is very slightly looser than Dallas and palpably slower.
“Try”is a manly bet and a provocation both. “Take me,” a formulation antiquated since the late 19th century, erudite and elegant as hell.
I think I didn’t do it. I think it was too much. I just don’t remember. How can you remember some things so clearly and not others? I think that’s how it worked, the disease just leached away from you everything that was good, everything you would have loved and, being able to love it, been happy.