So You Know It’s Me
by Brian Oliu
Tiny Hardcore Press
This pieces are the jaw-dropping emotional dynamites that I’ve come to expect from Brian Oliu. Missed connections smack out of their writers a sincere ridiculousness through uncovering nagging memories, minute observations, and quirky hopes. In So You Know It’s Me, the second release from Tiny Hardcore Press, Brian Oliu takes this trope and runs it through a cycle that banners missed connections that are as strangely endearing as they are ridiculously sad, as wildly hopeful as they are emotionally seeping.
Originally posted in Tuscaloosa’s Craiglist Missed Connections page, these short lyric essays flex their brilliance by displaying their grace in walking so many touchy lines: between creepy and loving, between tender and overbearing, between honest and fully sliced open. Oliu (or his speaker) reaches deep within his emotions and tosses out whatever feels real. Take “In Motion-UA Rec Center M4W,” from the beginning of the collection, where the speaker bounds through his observations about a woman at the gym, watching her on the elliptical and relating her position, her motion, to himself and the world around them. The pure sense of total concentration, or perhaps obsession, in that singular moment is astounding. As it starts, the speaker shimmies around a metaphor to find this woman’s place:
It is because you believe in movement without movement. It is because you want to move your legs up and down like pistons—no, not pistons, as that would conjure up images of machinery and mechanism and you are neither of these things: you are human, toned. You are not the machine: you are its operator.
As it circles within itself, the thoughts turn to others around them: bodybuilders, prospective students on a tour, a recollection of seeing two girls kiss in the racquetball courts. Finally, it’s back to the woman, her hair shaking as she exercises, and one last line-straddling admission: “I am left to wonder where it is you think you are going.”
This last sentence is a shining example of the depth of these pieces. Like with other missed connections on Craigslist, the backstory is far larger than the short prose would admit, but where the true radiance comes through is when Oliu takes the dense emotion and experience hidden beneath a missed connection and runs with it, exposing the delicacy, the vulnerability, and the susceptibility of human emotions.
This display comes full force as the book continues, as pieces and even the speaker’s past began to connect. At times, it goes beyond a simple missed connection, for instance when the speaker seems to (or pretends to?) know the woman, like in “Hand Me Downs-America’s Thrift M4W” where the speaker says that the woman’s mother always liked him, or when the writing dances out of the realism and into the fantasy full-blown, as in “UUDDLRRBASTART-GAMESTOP M4W” when the speaker tells of the girl’s past lives. In these moments, the balancing act tips at times, the endearing into the creepy, the spontaneity into the repeated.
Through the layers, however, we are bombarded with the realization that this speaker is us, that this woman is us. The beauty of Oliu’s first book is how his speaker, whether it be him or not, is unafraid to rip open himself and risk being a creep, being dramatic, being over-the-top. The emotion in these pieces jumps out to look us straight in the eye, as if to say, watch closely this is you; you’re gonna have to deal with it.