The baby appeared on the doorstep of 12.5 Pleasant Lane at 9:37 in the morning on Friday, while Kate was watching the local news and Andy was in the shower upstairs. There was a loud rap on the front door, and she thought briefly about her roommate Hannah’s excessive online shoe purchasing habit. Kate opened the door and was about to scream but the baby was asleep and she wanted to hear the news so she decided not to.
“Forecasts are looking steadily grim for Poughkeepsie this afternoon— the heat is proving itself relentless, and there have been reports of dogs melting in the streets. To prevent your dogs from melting we advise you to keep them inside. Should you happen to see a dog unattended be sure to remind it of the dangers of 116 degree weather, as they often do not watch the news.”
The baby was in a plastic bin without a lid, one of those Rubbermaid containers from Target with the foldable handles. It was laying on a purple fleece blanket that was folded hamburger-hotdog and was wearing a cop-themed jumpsuit. “My hero wears a badge!” was embroidered in swirly letters. Continue reading
The date, June 24, 1967, had been circled and starred on our house calendar for months – the last day of junior high school and my first train ride. Last Christmas, my best friend Denise, moved from Los Angeles to Tucson for her father’s job, and I missed her terribly. We met on the first day in seventh grade English when she asked me to join her club. She was the only member so far; I made two, and soon we were inseparable.
Mutt and Jeff, the boys teased us; it was easy to see why. Denise was 4’9” to my 5’8” but it was only when I saw our image together in a picture window that I could see how ridiculous we looked, me usually bent almost in half to hear what she was saying. In spite of my excruciating self-consciousness about my size, we found each other like two girls shipwrecked, sharing a scrap of board to survive the wild sea of the families we were born into by accident. Continue reading
An Essay by Joshua Weinstein
“It is impossible,” T.S. Eliot famously wrote in the voice of Prufrock, “to say just what I mean.” Prufrock finds many ways to express despair—he also wishes he had been a pair of ragged claws, reflects on being snickered at by the eternal Footman, predicts that mermaids will ignore him—and it was Eliot’s genius to craft a poem of breathtaking beauty from the point of view of a guy feeling sorry for himself. I don’t think Prufrock’s angst at not finding the right words should be taken as a philosophical statement about the human condition. But that apparently was what the philosopher Wittgenstein intended when he wrote, “Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent.”
When I ran into Wittgenstein’s dictum in college, I thought it was silly, an example of using academic-speak to make something trivial sound profound. I still do. We can’t talk about what we can’t talk about. Nu? Then there’s the paradox of talking about what we can’t talk about in order to say we can’t talk about it—quite the tangle. Besides, speech and silence hardly exhaust the range of options. What about music? Art? Primal scream? Beethoven’s rage may have been beyond the reach of words, but he found a way to express it. Continue reading
Working in advertising was supposed to be my escape from the fast food industry. As a teenager in Silver Lake, I’d taken orders through a headset and dunked frozen potatoes in a fryer, the grease baking into the webbing of my hairnet. Surrounded by movie studios and wannabe actors—well, mostly comedians who ordered double patties at four in the morning—I felt humiliated. I was an invisible, penniless, Cal State Northridge student, living at home with my mom. Life after I completed a bachelor’s degree in political science didn’t seem so incredible. My salary would be the same as I made at the Drive-Thru, if I could find a paying position at all. I remember burying my chin in the collar of my acrylic uniform, barely glancing at the passing BMWs. My sister, Rocío, had told me that the ad execs she worked with made six figures, sometimes seven. I made eight fifty an hour.
So the first week of my sophomore year, I took an extended break behind a dumpster to call Rocío in New York City. I told her, “I’m following in your footsteps!”
“Wha-? Chica, it’s after midnight here…” Continue reading
It’s 6.03 am when I’m woken up by him next door, moaning for help through the wall in a deep disturbing slur: ‘Jes-sie, ca-ca-call am-bu-la-lance. Feel…wrong…’
The wall pounces with an earthquake-like thud. My framed Courtney Love picture flies onto the bare floorboards, shattering into glass knives. My heart drums in my ears like never before – bu-bum…bu-bum…bu-bu-bum – like someone else’s heartbeat through an old stethoscope. Oh my god. Did Frank just collapse against the wall? I hear relaxed vomiting that sounds almost satisfying; I think of cake mix oozing out of a pipe tube.
I lie still in bed. I recall walking through the narrow brick corridor that leads to our tenement flat balconies on the day that I moved here. His enormous body blocked my way; stained tracksuit trousers stretched with desperate elastic. His little rodent tongue suggestively licked his scabby upper lip. ‘Moving in, Blondie?’ he wheezed with a husky pervert’s voice. I ignored him and trotted quickly through to my ground floor flat.
The next day, our paths crossed there again as I tried to squeeze passed him with Mr Scruff’s cat carry-box. His exposed stomach layers pressed against my bare arm, but it was impossible to free myself without dropping Mr Scruff. The intimacy of the moment sickened me: warm, skin-to-skin contact that left a rash of man-sweat itching my forearm. I had to scrub to get rid of the smell: nasty, cheesy sweat, like a hairy armpit that hasn’t been washed in weeks. Continue reading
Park and Ride and I. January 26th. Ottawa. This is how we meet.
I park my car and then grab my overstuffed knapsack that rests on the seat beside me that holds various snacks and workout clothes. I turn and reach behind me, and blindly grapple to locate my brown leather purse that I flung on the floor of the backseat. My second bag weighs more than any Army Cadet has ever had to carry during a march.
“Ah! There you are!” I say to no one in particular. Locating both bags, I push my car door open as white snow whips against my face feeling like hundreds of pin pricks against my cheeks. The snow enters my Honda civic and dances around inside. With that, I stick my foot out. And that’s where we meet.
Snowbank and I; SNOWBANK 1, ME 0.
Snow worms wiggle between my hiking boot and ankle and then, smoothly shimmy their way down to my heel. When my feet hit the pavement, the cold ice crunches against my sock and bottom of my boot until it is pulverized into a puddle. And now, I have a puddle at the bottom of my boot. Continue reading
As David unwrapped his arms from around her, Jocelyn felt as if a down comforter were being ripped away and her skin exposed to the cold night air. Her fiancé’s mere presence always seemed to raise the temperature of the room a couple degrees. His tall build, muscular frame, and chiseled jaw would quicken the beat of any woman’s heart. His position as an up and coming trial lawyer at a prestigious firm advertised intellect and ambition. His kindness and empathy indicated that he would not only be an outstanding lover and provider, but also a best friend.
David pointed the remote at the television and paused the episode of Masterpiece. Jocelyn’s past boyfriends would suffer through episodes of the British drama series with her, but she knew they prefered sports or action movies. When David, knowing nothing of Jocelyn’s preferences, had first shared his love for the Masterpiece shows, Jocelyn had felt destined to marry this man.
David stood up and walked toward the kitchen. “A little peckish,” he said. “Want anything?”
“What are you getting?” asked Jocelyn. Please, she thought, don’t let it be—
“Just a few jelly beans. Want anything else or something to drink?” Continue reading
She started at the departure gate—blacked out, the blank space amplified by the endless line of mirrored hallways, the aluminum-edged escalator, its teeth the oily mouth of the silent room. Her body a ridged skeleton in a coffin too big, she tried to find comfort in the touch of stuffing herself to sleep between the arm rails of a vinyl bench, but it was submerged in the giant bank of windows, each pane curled like fingers into the rafters, the coldness of the city at her back. She wanted to be a shadow, an animal playing dead, until the sun broke open the breathing world.
“You been mistaking the forest for the trees since the day you struck your momma down,” her grandmother rasped into the phone, when Emily said she was returning to Montgomery, returning to the drag of her grandmother’s slack-knee house, its tabby cats and French hens.
She remembered being eight years old, one of many Campfire Girls, walking to the bathroom two-by-two, like animals headed for the ark, both born of the night, only the light of the moon to move them. Emily sighed. There were still thirteen hours to the end, and she couldn’t while them away pretending to be a stone in a cave. So she walked the escalator downstairs, her boots and suitcase barreling the teeth blunt, and found a bench at the arrival gate, racked by fluorescent lights, posters of Mardi Gras masks, of people in the narrow streets, outlined in beads, the churning metal of the baggage belt, strangers dressed mostly in flannel and jeans, waiting for taxis within the airport’s warm belly. Continue reading