As for parents, my acupuncturist and I have four. Mine are divorced, and my acupuncturist’s are the only couple I can call to mind when I try to call to mind a secure couple. Being in a relationship is hard, the acupuncturist says, and being alone is hard too. You have to take what you get without settling for scraps.
A few years back, when I was playing the organ at the church, I was seeing a dental hygienist who was the front woman of a melodic thrash metal band called Clits of Anarchy. At the time, I was between living situations. I owed a lot of back rent to a guy who'd quickly became an ex-friend, and I was pretty ashamed of it. I'd never slipped that far down before, I'd always been able to skim by. 
My palms were slick with sweat. I smudged pencil lead across the linoleum, destroying the church, although now it really seemed more like an amalgam of haphazard shapes. There were now two things I couldn’t draw, I decided: cars and churches.
Gwen sliced. Thin slices, the cookbook said. Her slices were paper thin. Look how well she followed instructions. Her slices fainted over one another like dominoes.
There is a tenderness to the way MJ cradles the whirling molten orb. Alice, shameless exploiter of the museum’s generous discount policy, has seen it a hundred times and still not enough.
He tried to explain the sleep to me once, back when I thought it was helpful to ask clarifying questions. I was like a cross between Siri and your most memorable seventh grade teacher.
There are two kinds of parents: those who can’t wait to have their kids out of the house during the summer so they can go about their own business, and those who think that idle time is the Devil’s playground, and that children must work on their future, at every moment they get.
When she was a child she called it the hix. She doesn’t need to say it for me to know she’s seen it too. The word is hot on her breath, foul like fish gone to rot, like the air outside the dome.
So personal, the way he doesn’t stroke her hair as the ambulance wails. Instead, he tells someone not to pack up the food. They don’t all need to follow in their own cars to the hospital. They should enjoy the day and the lake and the peach pie that Maura baked for the occasion, and maybe he’ll meet them later.
The final touch would be pineapple wedges, apparently, and from where I was on my knees next to Ilsa I could see him assaulting a whole pineapple with a rusty butcher knife. He obviously had no idea what he was doing, but Ilsa and I seemed to be in silent agreement that we were going to allow him to be the man of the house when it came to the pineapple.
I tore up the paper. Coughed to cover the sound. Opened up my phone and played a video on YouTube of two service dogs chasing each other. The ad that played after was for cough drops.
We were told to hit those in the passive role. Every time we swung our hockey sticks at their necks, their visors would flash with EXP points. For anyone passive the object of the exercise was to get enough EXPs to level up to Emotional Stability.
The little dog clusters the sheep tightly around her master. Her eyes are perfect circles. She knows she’s done a good job.
These questions do not make me laugh like they would on a night when I was not starting avalanches. These are people who do not recognize their limits.
I wanted to date a nice man to prove to myself that all the therapy had worked. I’ll admit, I got into it.
I’m the assistant to the head of a small AI company. I don’t know anything about tech or consciousness. I have a BFA in studio art. I figured there’s no point in studying economics if the world’s ending.
Sometimes we have to save people from themselves. It happens. She lies back down. I drive for a while. It’s all going pretty smoothly, until we get into her subdivision. And shit, there it fucking is. A train. The arms of the crossing signal lower, and the bell screams. Fuck.
One Saturday afternoon, the unimaginable happened. In a break between rotations, I was sitting on top of the vault—my chosen lookout spot. All of a sudden, I sensed the air change around me. It was Larisa, pouncing up like a Lycra-clad cat to crouch at my side. Panic bubbled in my gut. Why had she come to sit with me? Did she even know who I was? We had never been so close to each other before.
A sharp, split-second pause. My Grandmother describes this moment inconsistently. With each telling, there’s a new detail: a fisherman to watch, a beggar to pity. The fisherman, waving a switch in front of his bucket, crouches beside a farmer heating bricks in a kiln. Both stare open-mouthed at the smashed egg; their reaction (Grandmother claims) is shared by a passing cadre, who shouts, a giddy falsetto creeping into his baritone, “What a shame!”
We had storage units, ex-wives, and unpaid parking tickets down in the city, but we had since quit our jobs that tethered us to those lives. We knew how to tear things down and build them back up. We were in the business of predicting what people wanted, how, and when. We were doers and makers, bored to death by the pedigree we had earned in the trenches below.
She had opted out of the diversity section on the application, but had assumed that per the powers of the United States government, they would know the basics. She wasn’t hard to find. There were things on the internet, pictures, and regrettably, poems.
As I scrolled through my mentions, I wondered if Robbie was right. Why would anyone want to SWAT me though? I don’t talk smack, and I don’t harass anyone. There are gamer dudes who are famous because that’s all they do—yell at the camera and call gamers racial slurs. They make fun of people they don’t even know in real life. Like, what’s the point of that?
She looks exactly the same in every way but I know it isn’t her. The woman who is not my mother dips her knife into the neon yellow plastic bucket inside which the cantaloupe sits. Standing in the middle of the upstairs hall bathroom (the one where I always forget to turn the lights off), she looks up at me and speaks as I enter, the tip of her knife poised on top of the melon, ready for incision.
At least Benny and I had our routine: We went to Sasha’s in the morning where I read about the Battle of Saratoga and cried all day. I felt like I would never meet another man as smart as Davis. I imagined him kneeling over the edge of the bed screaming at me in grammatically complex profanity. I didn’t want to become one of those people who fantasized about the past.
The Lord of the Flies was a different person from Stanley. He wasn’t interested in repeating arguments with Angela. He wanted to prove the scope of his genius; transforming himself into a monster made him feel decades younger and he wasn’t going to stop there.
Men loved The Sex Castle because they could be king. It was still the 1970s once you walked under that lightbulb bordered door. Their sexist and racist jokes got laughs, their boring work stories were listened to, everyone felt attractive, with girls vying for their attention. No one reminded them who they really were.
We discussed the kind of crime he might commit. Most business owners would no longer prosecute for theft, the requisite time and energy not worth the potential recovery of property. Anything under a felony would net a slap on the wrist and a fine; there was no need for minor league convictions. Charlie had no desire to harm anyone.
"There’s something extraordinary about a woman being so blond. I guess men always look for something extraordinary in a woman. I mean, maybe, maybe not, but for me, if a woman is extraordinary, I’ve got to have her. I’m not saying you aren’t extraordinary—this is going to be cruel!—but what I am saying is that you’re cute, you’re cute like Drew Barrymore-cute, but Stella is beautiful like she-just-stepped-off-a-private-jet-and-she-wears-expensive-underwear-beautiful. That kind of beautiful. I like your hair fine. But I like hers better. Stop looking at me like that. You wanted to know the reasons. I’m giving you the reasons."
As a child, I often felt as if my body was sinking. I don’t get this so much anymore, but then, it was real bad. I’d sit on the couch, and my heart would drop, my stomach would drop, and my feet would grow cold. My parents thought that American sensibilities made me an anxious child; perhaps the luxuries of sugary cereal and school clubs were detrimental.
In the photo, I’m in profile on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty on a cold morning. I have on a toboggan and a black and white scarf with a pattern to clash with my red and tan plaid hunter’s jacket. I wear mirrored aviators. I have a full beard. The sun off my glasses or the skyscrapers resolute in the background or my being there, in that harbor, where crowds dared to dream, must be doing it for Mom because I’m heartbroken in the picture.
“Fuck,” Gina almost said aloud. She felt a sharp pain in her abdomen. A cramp. Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m getting my period looking at the fucking Star-Spangled Banner, she thought. Oh well! White for purity and red for the blood that was shed.
I thought she was the prettiest girl in our entire school, and I wanted to be her almost as much as I wanted to be near her. Every time she asked me to sleep over, I felt a certain surprise, a “who, me?” feeling, even though we were best friends; every time I woke up next to her in her turquoise canopy bed, her long, blonde hair in my mouth and her limbs splayed out so they poked into mine, I couldn’t believe my luck.
We could hear the girl that lived above Paul’s room having sex with her boyfriend because we could hear him. In the summer, I thought maybe it was just because the windows were open. But in winter we plastic-wrapped them shut, and I still heard his little yelps twice a week.
And yet the sex did not get better. He was a determined giver, but missed the mark so predictably that I began to find his efforts in bed comical. He wouldn’t correct course even when I nudged him quite forcefully, a failure that I ascribed to a stubborn overconfidence on his part.
“They stayed upstairs that night,” said Clara’s father. “The next morning, he and the defense secretary came down, and we made them a nice breakfast, and while they sipped Fresca, the president sat back and crossed his legs, and we saw him smile for the first time.”
I pick a blister off the bottom of my foot and he doesn’t even blink. Maybe I want to be owned. Or maybe that’s the only way I’ve been conditioned to understand desire.
I bought a goldfish in a dream once. She was modestly shiny, with scales like mirrors on a disco ball. My left eye reflected itself on her body if I turned the right way. I knew she was a she because she told me, right before I placed her into her bowl. “Okay,” I said, “good girl.” She smiled at me, a specious sort of smile that I was wary of but loved all the same.
They spend the first drink verifying that they speak a common language: where do you think LeBron’s going to play next year? What did you think of the new Drake album? Have you heard about Jay’s new girl?
Gerard sniffed the air, his eyes traveling the room. “I leave you alone for a few minutes and this is what happens? I am gonna flip. I am gonna bust a gasket.”
It’s another curfew night and Ma is frying bay leaves and cloves in a tin-coated kadai. Raja sits cross-legged on the floor, bent over his math notebook. My hands are inside a small mound of flour, kneading and feeling the air pockets.
We stayed silent for a moment. Him standing, eyes solemnly downcast, me squatting, looking up. He told me he trusted me with this knowledge because I was the right kind of Christian. When I asked what he meant, he looked me in the eye and said, the kind who believes.
Years later, a mutual friend will call her a liar, saying she’d lied about her age, she even lied about her hair. I’d heard her accept dozens of compliments on her curls without ever mentioning a perm, so I consider this to be another deceit.
She appeared in the kitchen doorway in her mother’s yellow-and-white dress, tan slingback sandals, and unevenly applied fire-engine red lipstick. She looked like a girl in costume, playacting. The sight of her pinched Mara’s heart.
Daniel, a guy I barely knew from university, said that I should stay in a local house so I could experience the "real" Colombia. I told him I was from Barranquilla.
I thought that after I turned the age he was when he died that I would feel some monumental weight of time, like each second would be a reminder. That didn’t happen. The initial depression came and went and then days passed slowly while years passed quickly and now we are here.
He lived in Denmark for a while, but returned to the Grunewald forest for the last years of his life. From his room in the sanatorium, he painted several depictions of the lake. One of these hangs in the Stadtmuseum in Berlin.
“I don’t understand,” my dad said, face in his hands, as three guards swapped out Aaron’s empty crib and dresser, and all of the clothes and toys still in their gift bags, for Jerry, a middle-aged man serving a ten year sentence, officially our new roommate.
They sat at the dining table to eat, and she was glad for the conversation. It was as though no time had passed. Nilim looked older and more mature, and yet he was exactly the same as she remembered. The power went out with a crack as they finished dinner, and darkness flooded the apartment.
She hates the locker-room shower stalls at the YMCA with the curtain that only covers most of you. She hates that someone could stand in just the right place and peek in. Like those ladies who walk around naked. Maybe they want her to be naked, too.
In silence Xiomara removes the knife from his grip then grabs the can of whole coffee beans off the counter. She takes from it a handful, letting the beans roll from her palm onto a cutting board, and Marcos watches them like marbles circling each other, unsure if they are following or trying to outrun one another.
As for parents, my acupuncturist and I have four. Mine are divorced, and my acupuncturist’s are the only couple I can call to mind when I try to call to mind a secure couple. Being in a relationship is hard, the acupuncturist says, and being alone is hard too. You have to take what you get without settling for scraps.
A few years back, when I was playing the organ at the church, I was seeing a dental hygienist who was the front woman of a melodic thrash metal band called Clits of Anarchy. At the time, I was between living situations. I owed a lot of back rent to a guy who'd quickly became an ex-friend, and I was pretty ashamed of it. I'd never slipped that far down before, I'd always been able to skim by. 
My palms were slick with sweat. I smudged pencil lead across the linoleum, destroying the church, although now it really seemed more like an amalgam of haphazard shapes. There were now two things I couldn’t draw, I decided: cars and churches.
Gwen sliced. Thin slices, the cookbook said. Her slices were paper thin. Look how well she followed instructions. Her slices fainted over one another like dominoes.
There is a tenderness to the way MJ cradles the whirling molten orb. Alice, shameless exploiter of the museum’s generous discount policy, has seen it a hundred times and still not enough.
He tried to explain the sleep to me once, back when I thought it was helpful to ask clarifying questions. I was like a cross between Siri and your most memorable seventh grade teacher.
There are two kinds of parents: those who can’t wait to have their kids out of the house during the summer so they can go about their own business, and those who think that idle time is the Devil’s playground, and that children must work on their future, at every moment they get.
When she was a child she called it the hix. She doesn’t need to say it for me to know she’s seen it too. The word is hot on her breath, foul like fish gone to rot, like the air outside the dome.
So personal, the way he doesn’t stroke her hair as the ambulance wails. Instead, he tells someone not to pack up the food. They don’t all need to follow in their own cars to the hospital. They should enjoy the day and the lake and the peach pie that Maura baked for the occasion, and maybe he’ll meet them later.
The final touch would be pineapple wedges, apparently, and from where I was on my knees next to Ilsa I could see him assaulting a whole pineapple with a rusty butcher knife. He obviously had no idea what he was doing, but Ilsa and I seemed to be in silent agreement that we were going to allow him to be the man of the house when it came to the pineapple.
I tore up the paper. Coughed to cover the sound. Opened up my phone and played a video on YouTube of two service dogs chasing each other. The ad that played after was for cough drops.
We were told to hit those in the passive role. Every time we swung our hockey sticks at their necks, their visors would flash with EXP points. For anyone passive the object of the exercise was to get enough EXPs to level up to Emotional Stability.
The little dog clusters the sheep tightly around her master. Her eyes are perfect circles. She knows she’s done a good job.
These questions do not make me laugh like they would on a night when I was not starting avalanches. These are people who do not recognize their limits.
I wanted to date a nice man to prove to myself that all the therapy had worked. I’ll admit, I got into it.
I’m the assistant to the head of a small AI company. I don’t know anything about tech or consciousness. I have a BFA in studio art. I figured there’s no point in studying economics if the world’s ending.
Sometimes we have to save people from themselves. It happens. She lies back down. I drive for a while. It’s all going pretty smoothly, until we get into her subdivision. And shit, there it fucking is. A train. The arms of the crossing signal lower, and the bell screams. Fuck.
One Saturday afternoon, the unimaginable happened. In a break between rotations, I was sitting on top of the vault—my chosen lookout spot. All of a sudden, I sensed the air change around me. It was Larisa, pouncing up like a Lycra-clad cat to crouch at my side. Panic bubbled in my gut. Why had she come to sit with me? Did she even know who I was? We had never been so close to each other before.
A sharp, split-second pause. My Grandmother describes this moment inconsistently. With each telling, there’s a new detail: a fisherman to watch, a beggar to pity. The fisherman, waving a switch in front of his bucket, crouches beside a farmer heating bricks in a kiln. Both stare open-mouthed at the smashed egg; their reaction (Grandmother claims) is shared by a passing cadre, who shouts, a giddy falsetto creeping into his baritone, “What a shame!”
We had storage units, ex-wives, and unpaid parking tickets down in the city, but we had since quit our jobs that tethered us to those lives. We knew how to tear things down and build them back up. We were in the business of predicting what people wanted, how, and when. We were doers and makers, bored to death by the pedigree we had earned in the trenches below.
She had opted out of the diversity section on the application, but had assumed that per the powers of the United States government, they would know the basics. She wasn’t hard to find. There were things on the internet, pictures, and regrettably, poems.