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
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
The two of ‘em are having a real bad time changing Dwayne’s diaper, cursing and yelling for me to come out there and hold down Dwayne’s legs. But I can’t. I’m not done pouting. Mamma said I looked like a brood sow in my blue jean skirt, and Clarke’s still on my grievance list ‘cause he peed on my blue rug. Ms. Price would call that there irony, which is like opposite world, Clarke being a grown man and changing a nine-year-old’s diaper but going tinkle on my bedroom floor in the middle of the night. He apologized. Said he was dreaming he was back in Desert Storm and needed to show them Iraqis a what for. Then Mamma said he wasn’t in no Desert Storm and that he should know better than to drink fourteen beers when she’s not here to see to Dwayne.
I was embarrassed for Clarke while it was happening, so I stayed under the covers with Jeep while he finished his business. Jeep’s a real silky black cat with one white paw, and she’s never peed on my blue rug. She did pee on Dwayne’s blanket, but Dwayne didn’t notice ‘cause he’s got dystonic cerebral palsy and pees in a plastic jug himself.
Please don’t tell anyone. They’ll make fun of me and already they do enough of that. Boys aren’t supposed to have fairy godmothers. And boys have other meanings for the word ‘fairy.’ They already call me enough names.
My fairy godmother’s name is Fée Marraine. I can’t pronounce it. I always say Pee Marinade. She doesn’t seem to mind. Some years ago, I try to tell my mother about her. I climb onto the counter while Mom cooks chicken for dinner. I know how Mom like to share recipes with her friends. Pee tells me a chicken recipe and I want to share it with Mom. I say, “Ma, want help from Pee Marinade?”
Mom looks at me with a horror-filled face. “Why would you say that?”
I cry. I know I disappoint her terribly. I’m not very good at understanding what someone else is feeling. But, when she looks at me, I see love in her eyes while the rest of her body is frustration and sadness. I know I should be a better boy. I try so hard. I never know why I fail. Every night, I pray about it. I know all of the incantation’s magic words like hallowed, kingdom, trespasses, and temptation. But I never be a better boy. Pee says it’s not my fault. She says: “Contrary to the wisdom, the fault isn’t in ourselves but in our stars.” Continue reading
PART I: ERASMUS
The autumn breeze quivers my tiny, cotton collar. I survey the pumpkins lying haphazardly on Stuart’s Farm. Then I call out in the high-pitched voice of a three-year-old: “Pun’kin! Pun’kin!”
Susan’s red hair cascades into my stroller, shrouding my view. “Which pumpkin do you want, sweetie?”
I have never felt a propensity toward gourd shopping, especially not in Granite Springs, though now that she insists that I voice my opinion, I have no choice but to share it. I pull her hair aside.
“That one!” I point to the farthest and largest pumpkin in the patch, which takes us five minutes to approach.
Upon closer inspection of the plant, I reject it by stomping my feet against the stroller. I never tire of this performance, not in all my twenty-eight years of experience. Truly, the acting is unnecessary. This performance is something I add for pleasure. I am the epitome of toddlerhood. I have a small, button nose, large eyes, and peach-colored cheeks. Besides, with the right words and a little peas-blossom, I take on the exact appearance of the child I replace. When looking at me, you would never guess that I am middle- aged. Hardly! My skin has the sour and sweet perfume of diapers and baby powder. The fact that Susan has dressed me up for this inane holiday seems superfluous, and frankly, ridiculous. I do not want to be dressed as a stegosaurus. I am already pretending, why should I put on another mask?