I’m fast. Put me on the line, the gun in the air, the white girls next to me, and the Latinas talking right to the moment the powder ignites, and I blow by them. The wind on my skin tears the sweat from my arm hair as my muscles pump. 100 meters in and I’ll have the lead by the length of my outstretched legs. By the end of the race, the Latinas stare open-mouthed, and the white girls will wipe the supposedly waterproof mascara from their cheeks while I break the tape and take my place on the podium.
“Winner of the girls’ 400 meter run: Piper Dupree,” the announcer would say.
“Piper. Piper Dupree,” Mrs. G says snapping her fingers. My eyes snap to her for a moment before wandering to the white board behind her.
“Yeah, here,” I say rolling my eyes. She sees me, gives me the eye. I like Mrs. G, and if I graduate, I’ll miss her. She’s the only one who takes my shit. Continue reading
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