The lock clicked at nine. The sun set against the clustered houses, suburbs of the city, houses lined shoulder to shoulder. Mary entered light-footed; her insides buzzed as her skin hit the air of their shared dwelling. A cold whoosh. A shock.
Behind her the broken screen door smacked.
Tad jolted from the couch as her car crushed at the gravel driveway. He watched the blue blur pass the windows. In its wake he straightened up the room, uprighting pillows. He slicked back his hair.
He bolted toward the kitchen when the door banged. She stood framed in the doorway. Her hair curled and twisted along her slender face. Only a day apart but he’d waited for her return. He felt compelled to move toward her and scoop her into his arms, yet the awkwardness of the space stopped him: the square of the kitchen enclosed them, each facing the other across an unforgiving diagonal.
“Hi,” Tad’s voice hung in the air. Mary adjusted her balance and pushed strands of hair behind her ear.
Silver flashed from her earring in the light and jarred Tad’s memory. Pain in her unforgiving eyes hit him, an uppercut. He broke the distance to embrace her. He hugged her harder than her body language indicated she wanted. His face sunk into her hair, and he inhaled the lavender scent before he let out a brief sob. The wetness crept unto a few strands of hair and clung to his face. When it’s easy he loves her without reservation. He’ll apologize and she’ll allow it. When it’s complicated – when the alter ego of addiction consumes his body – he builds barriers against her. Continue reading
By Tess Tabak
Disoriental, a new novel by Négar Djavadi, tells the epic story of a family, the Sadrs, across a century of true Iranian history. Kimia, the youngest daughter of Darius and Sara Sadr, is the self-appointed keeper of family lore. She tells her own story through the lens of her extended family’s history, weaving the tales in and out of each other like a modern day Scherzerade. The family currently lives in France and Disoriental’s message is particularly poignant, and relevant, in today’s political climate, when refugees are not freely welcome in many Western countries.
The novel opens slowly, on Kimia attempting to receive fertility treatment, in a room filled with couples desperate for a child. She is the only one who came to the appointment alone, without a partner. Once you get started this is a hard book to put down. While she waits for the doctor, Kimia braids her present story in and out of her family’s history, set against the backdrop of Iran’s tumultuous political history. Anecdotes fluidly move from one into the other, and the tale jumps back and forth between spans of 20 to 50 years at a time (there’s a helpful key in the back of the book if you lose track of the characters). Continue reading
I still have the same sex fantasy about my dead friend that I had when she was alive. I try not to let it happen often, but when it does, she’s still super into it – toenails red, shaved here and there, happy to play in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. Before we remove ourselves from each other, we talk about what an awesome idea this was. We giggle and stuff. Our bodies are the bodies we had in twelfth grade – lithe and tireless. She glistens with a soft, damp sheen. The lights are all on. She doesn’t care that I’m not part of the cool group she usually hangs out with. None of it makes much sense.
Sometimes, when I’m done fantasizing, I apologize out loud.
I never make it past the sex part, but if the fantasy comes into my head when I’m doing other stuff and not horny enough to bother, I imagine that there’s no cleanup involved; she just pulls her jeans on and raids my parents’ fridge. Maybe we watch cartoons in the living room. The scene outside the window is gray and featureless. I have no idea where my parents are.
based on “Proof of the Pudding,”
a short story by O. HENRY
PUBLIC DOMAIN: “Proof of the Pudding,” which was included in O. Henry’s 1910 short story collection, “Strictly Business,” is in the public domain.
Review by Tess Tabak
In Heads of the Colored People, Nafissa Thompson-Spires weaves a tapestry of loosely connected stories about African-American people. She explores the complex relationships African-Americans have towards their racial identity in 21st century America.
The characters in Heads often feel like outsiders in their own world. In the first story, a simple misunderstanding sparks into a fight when one black man, dressed in anime garb, his hair dyed blonde and wearing purple contacts, inadvertently ignores another black man on the street.
Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always sharp, these stories bring us into a world of diverse voices. In a meta, meta move, a character in the first story is working on a piece called Heads of the Colored People, a collection of sketches that will reflect the lives of black people, a modern update on a project of the same name by Dr. James McCune Smith in 1854. She compares her own sketch to the police-drawn chalk outline of a man killed by police brutality. “I couldn’t draw the bodies while the heads talked over me, and the mosaic formed in blood, and what is a sketch but a chalk outline done in pencil or words?” Continue reading
When she sits down on the couch with you, holds your hands, and looks you in the eye, you will not have to guess what’s coming next. After all, you’ve been expecting this for months, waiting in agony for this day to come. The love has already flickered off. She will be gentle and kind, like she always has been, but in the end, you will have to sleep at your friend’s apartment that night. Your friend will comfort you by telling you the stories behind their tattoos again, and drinking wine with you. Eventually, they will get tired, and so will you. Their spare room is large enough for your thoughts to run free. For the next two hours, your heavy eyes will be held up by jumbled and confused questions, and the last thought that flashes in your mind before sleep wins is the beginning of accepting a lie: tomorrow will be better.
You will wake up in that unfamiliar bed, back aching and sore, and wonder where you are and who you went home with this time. Memories of last night fade into view as you crawl out of bed and into the bathroom. Your friend will have already gone to work, and with no one there to confirm your story, you will doubt your memory; after all, you are getting older. Besides, sometimes dream weavers can lie.