In high school Marian said to me about my favorite author, George Eliot. “Isn’t that just an old British man?” smiling like her mouth was a knife.
Witches and wannabes, way too many drugs. Day three without sleep and you're psychotic for real. Then it’s like the song—we’re waiting for our man.
He was my husband, but I called him dog. When he returned from the woods each passing dawn, from wherever it is that wild things go, he would whimper and scratch at the door.
A house is an organism, Earth is an organism. These are more than just metaphors, I will think months later when I get the call from Kristen that Dad isn’t expected to survive the night.
Biriyani jumped off the diving board and broke the surface of the swimming pool in a clean arc. Pale pink fluff rippled over the pool. Her legs kicked a trillion tiny dark blue jewels into the air that melted back into water.
Death and silence you decide after unzipping your pants. You put your hands on the top of the urinal and steady yourself.
Morcella is her name and we’re twelve in Miss Conway’s science class talking kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species of the kangaroo.
We should have known Eduardo would be the type to tattle. He was a hyperactive, annoying child with a tendency to boss us around, although at 8 he was younger than me by a year and had been held back in school.
It’s easy to forget that wind is a type of weather until it throws itself across lakes and parking lots, carrying the sound of hacking coughs, and turning flowers into stems. The wind I made was strong, rushed across the water so forcefully that I couldn’t hear myself speak. As soon as words got made, they blew away. And in that landscape of after sound, language itself was gone.
Her mom’s idea of good music was Kirk Franklin and Beyoncé. More than once Kenzi found her mother in the living room stumbling along as she tried to “get in formation” or convince Fat Dave to put a ring on it. She even had a shrine to the singer in her bedroom, photos taped along her dresser for “inspiration.”
In July, the spare room on the second floor of their rental fills with flies. They try getting the landlord to do something—anything—about the flies, but they’ve only been in France a month and can’t remember how to say please. They keep the door to the Fly Room shut tight.
Everyone was shouting this on the first day of the summer of 1993, so loudly it took us awhile to realize we were shouting it too.
The test began. The students worked diligently to fill the bubbles they deemed appropriate. Livia watched one young man methodically draw frowny faces within each bubble and then cover them over with a flurry of graphite.
His date had neon pink shellacked fingernails. Lance couldn’t stop staring at them. The glare off them from the overhead lights was almost blinding. It reminded him of headlight beams bouncing off a rain-slicked road.
My therapist says to remember that I’m young and only human. My mother in our last phone call said that I’m a narcissist. My father wants the money back from my wedding.
M takes it from him. It sits in her palm, a squat little thing that's very white at the top but bloody at the root. She tries to remember what the different kinds of teeth are and which one this is. Around them, the other kids are screaming and prancing but M and V are still, staring at the tooth.
The city is sinking and about to go underwater. You don’t understand that the city is sinking and about to go underwater. I can smell the trash outside getting wet with anticipation.
I think of his mouth saying andante. Saying hunger. Of my body, sheer anatomy. Dust and dust, and what—what makes the music? What does bone-tinged music want from me? I spoke to my stomach, said child, you won't survive.
After the disaster, we were shuttled in busses to the elementary school. We were a soft-footed herd. They turned us towards the entrance, combating the mass distraction of our frozen thoughts. We were demagnetized compasses, nothing but spinning needles.
If Nell were in town, I would’ve opened the Pinot Grigio and I would’ve been laughing. I’d have been convinced into the red dress. On my own I drank mint tea and gazed into the dark mole at the base of my neck, feeling tragic. Its single hair seemed to have darkened, thickened, even. Plucking was not an option - I imagined blood, the necessity of a bandage or a turtleneck. Even trimming unnerved me. I’ve never had good depth perception. I didn’t trust myself not to miss the mark completely.
Dennis and Susan were relatively new friends of Liza and Natalie, and they were those people. The kind that made Audrey feel both resentful and vaguely turned-on at the same time. Well-educated, straight teeth, J. Crew everything. She found herself genuinely wondering what their skin care regiments entailed, and she loathed herself for it.
When her aunt called her to ask her about what it was like, Eleanor didn’t let on that she thought she might be miserable, or that misery might be in store for her, incubating under her skin. She had noticed on the trip down, trailer of possessions in tow, that some of the names were magical here, too, and this made her hopeful. Golden, Falling Spring, Backbone. Maybe they’d be worth seeing.
Two weeks later, a big envelope arrives in the mail. Her name is Lucia and she is seven years old. She lives in Ecuador. In the picture she looks small, and when he puts her height and weight into an online BMI calculator, it confirms that she is slightly underweight. Not horribly underweight, not exactly starving, but still. The organization sends a piece of stationary and he writes a short letter, with simple sentences.
Tanya kept her eyes on the elm’s slippery bark. Thanks to the Internet, she knew everything. She knew it was the size of a kidney bean, and if she waited any longer—a blueberry—then, a kumquat. She had never tasted a kumquat, and now she never would, because it was a fruit that she wanted to forget. She nodded yes.
I saw it on the Internet where people were pulling up these monster goldfish in Lake Tahoe. Those things will get as big as they have space, and now they’re eating everything, all the lake trash. I thought, I bet I can make a bigger one. I’d fill the pool with my junk and observe it every day at sunset. Then Fox would interview me, and I’d tell them how I really feel about foreign relations and bombs and breeding.
The woman looks confused. She stares at the girl, who is the only other moving thing in the dark of the new year. She says something that sounds like the hissing of water as it falls to a hot pan. The girl has gone through more than half the matches now, and the woman looks old enough to be her mother. She strikes another.
Oh how I longed for that excitement, oh how I longed for that feeling as I would wrap the helicopter in the dish towels given to us by Cousin Vitto and unwrap it again in a desperate attempt to capture the magic that now eluded me but had been powerfully felt not so long ago.
I think about what a happy vagina might look like, or what it would take to get an answer from someone about vaginal expression that isn’t based on irritation, indecisiveness, or weariness. I say, I wonder when vaginas look happy. No one responds. So I think about a list of physical attributes that are important to me in terms of sexual appeal. Balanced frame, comes to mind.
I walked past him and he complimented my purse. I was carrying a box-like silver Ivanka Trump purse, I smiled and thanked him for the compliment. He said the purse looked like a briefcase and that I reminded him of a beautiful government spy, (I fell for it and him, then and there). In letters he would write me years later, he would mention the Ivanka Trump purse as a moment of importance in our relationship and by the time Donald Trump became president I wished that I never bought the bag and never met Ray.
Two boarding passes and I’m sitting on a sofa in this airport, waiting for a plane again. I feel my fear in the palm of my hand. The old exhaustion. Familiar churning in my gut. It’s time to leave. I can’t wait. Outside’s a massive, swamplike heat. Humidity. I want to dip my head in acid. Clean myself out. Shake the dirt that’s all over me. It’s time to leave at last and I can’t wait, but I think something’s happened, this blinding flash of light.
My own mother wore the same handmade clothes until the day she never woke up. Try as I might, I am nowhere near the seamstress she was. So now I wear my daughter’s old clothes. She left a closet full of them, in perfect condition, after she moved out of the house. There are enough sweatshirts for me to live out my days in them.
Months after using my camera, I developed a roll of film and found you on it. I thought of Sontag writing, “The sense of the unattainable that can be evoked by photographs feeds directly into the erotic feelings of those for whom desirability is increased by distance.” I felt obvious and became embarrassed.
After rereading it you feel a weakness that draws out of you like a low tide until there are only raised boats in the mud and incredible want. Why didn’t the character in the story predict that? What did she know that you don’t?
Even when he doesn’t look as good, he still can’t quite look bad.  Right after he broke up with you, he bought you a drink. 
He reached into his briefcase, pulled out an apple, wiped it on his shirt, and took a large chomp. He watched himself chew in the rear-view mirror. He ate the apple’s core too because he had nowhere to dispose of it and he didn’t want to chuck it out the window in case the client pulled in at exactly that moment.
Under her keyboard was a faint eeee. Feeble warble weakly insistent like a dog shut outside. The eeee was deep in her laptop’s guts. Her brother Mark was on video chat, her famous and handsome brother, mouth-breathing due to his rhinoplasty and making tattoo suggestions. But she could hear it between his sentences, the eeee.
There’s nothing wrong with your life, other than the obvious things. The other girl is rich, though, the kind of rich with soft hands and chauffeurs. You meet her outside her mansion, a baseball cap tipped over your face to hide it.
I also occasionally fell into a coma. I would dream of Las Vegas past, when I was a kid, when I flew down with my grandparents and we could still go to the Sands and the Silver Slipper and the Stardust. They would spend six weeks in the desert every winter in a motel two blocks off the Strip with a pool and a large Yiddish clientele.
Within a few minutes a woman in a red sweatshirt came to collect Tammy. Anisha left soon after, and then, to my consternation, so did Daniel Park. By lunchtime half the class had gone home. At the time I had a strange fondness for carrots dipped in ketchup, and it was this I was enjoying when my father appeared in the doorway.
The grandmothers walk through the front door, two and three at a time, bonding over talk of the weather. They lower their umbrellas, brush raindrops from their shawls and smooth their sheen grey hair, propped up in helmets or draped over grandmotherly shoulders. Cats and dogs, they say. Absolutely cats and dogs.
My room was just as messy as I remembered it, books and papers all over the floor, crushing the bed under their weight. This whole thing was getting farther and farther away from the story I’d written and I wasn’t sure how to get it back. Where was he anyway?
First of all the name of the creature who follows me around: Agvagvat. Watching my mouth in the mirror call her, “Hey, Agvagvat,” I can’t stand it—Agvagvat isn’t an attractive word to say. When my mouth makes those guppy sounds I look very middle aged.
In Marko and Ana’s living room in Astoria hung a framed piece of Paška čipka—Pag lace—attached to a piece of creased cerulean paper. Last year when they were packing their bags to leave Croatia, Marko told Ana not to put it in her suitcase but she was hurried and stuffed everything in.
A small, run-down boat moored across the river looks as though it’s adrift. Before the dog is carried to the dam, before it’s cast away, before the water meets the barrier, it must be scooped out.
The Mistress ate these with her hands. Somehow she did it with such practice she didn’t make a mess; all the crumbs landed perfectly in her mouth. When you became an expert in cake, she set you up with a cantor who taught you how to open your diaphragm to belt all the good noises out. Morning and night, she invited you to her room; asked you to stand at the foot of her bed and sing.
The thing that bothered him most about whales:  they are out there somewhere whether you see them or not, bobbing in the black depths. This knowledge wrecked him, somehow. If the animal trainer couldn’t conquer whales, elephants would have to do. Land leviathans, they had that same throb of gravity. Their big wet eyes, the dumb lumbering that hid their great minds.
Sheri starts yelling at me, asks what’s taking so long, why am I hiding, it’s so immature, this is getting annoying, and that I scared off the Bunny Man. I flip up the flashlight to Sheri. She’s stopped, her back still to me. Beyond her, there’s another Sheri, this one braided and leggy, her hand familiar on her jutted out hip. I reach to grab this girl in front of me, but when I touch her shoulder, she’s cold and gauzy like mist. My hand goes right through her. She dissolves into the darkness.
We went to a party. It was at Marv’s place. Marv is a real sort of fellow, a no bullshit type of bullshitter. Marv shows office furniture, in the office furniture showroom. He has no belief in God. At Marv’s party, there was a warm handle of vodka and some Dixie Cups on a fold-up table in the very center of his studio. He wore a hat, though it wasn’t flattering. This is just further proof of Marv’s hard sort of kookiness.
“I had nothing. Other couples held hands or sat close with their shoulders touching, but not us. Other couples continued to have sex and find satisfaction in each other even as the years went by, but not us. Once when ill, your father sat on the edge of my bed. Other than that, I remained alone. In my own house, for years I was alone. I never liked Roy, either.”
You came here because you were taught not to give up without a fight, to hold on to people dearly. Which maybe makes you an excellent lawyer but not a great girlfriend. You often felt like your relationship with Charlie was a third party, something distinct from either of you, something fundamentally good and precious, that you needed to protect.
In high school Marian said to me about my favorite author, George Eliot. “Isn’t that just an old British man?” smiling like her mouth was a knife.
Witches and wannabes, way too many drugs. Day three without sleep and you're psychotic for real. Then it’s like the song—we’re waiting for our man.
He was my husband, but I called him dog. When he returned from the woods each passing dawn, from wherever it is that wild things go, he would whimper and scratch at the door.
A house is an organism, Earth is an organism. These are more than just metaphors, I will think months later when I get the call from Kristen that Dad isn’t expected to survive the night.
Biriyani jumped off the diving board and broke the surface of the swimming pool in a clean arc. Pale pink fluff rippled over the pool. Her legs kicked a trillion tiny dark blue jewels into the air that melted back into water.
Death and silence you decide after unzipping your pants. You put your hands on the top of the urinal and steady yourself.
Morcella is her name and we’re twelve in Miss Conway’s science class talking kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species of the kangaroo.
We should have known Eduardo would be the type to tattle. He was a hyperactive, annoying child with a tendency to boss us around, although at 8 he was younger than me by a year and had been held back in school.
It’s easy to forget that wind is a type of weather until it throws itself across lakes and parking lots, carrying the sound of hacking coughs, and turning flowers into stems. The wind I made was strong, rushed across the water so forcefully that I couldn’t hear myself speak. As soon as words got made, they blew away. And in that landscape of after sound, language itself was gone.
Her mom’s idea of good music was Kirk Franklin and Beyoncé. More than once Kenzi found her mother in the living room stumbling along as she tried to “get in formation” or convince Fat Dave to put a ring on it. She even had a shrine to the singer in her bedroom, photos taped along her dresser for “inspiration.”
In July, the spare room on the second floor of their rental fills with flies. They try getting the landlord to do something—anything—about the flies, but they’ve only been in France a month and can’t remember how to say please. They keep the door to the Fly Room shut tight.
Everyone was shouting this on the first day of the summer of 1993, so loudly it took us awhile to realize we were shouting it too.
The test began. The students worked diligently to fill the bubbles they deemed appropriate. Livia watched one young man methodically draw frowny faces within each bubble and then cover them over with a flurry of graphite.
His date had neon pink shellacked fingernails. Lance couldn’t stop staring at them. The glare off them from the overhead lights was almost blinding. It reminded him of headlight beams bouncing off a rain-slicked road.
My therapist says to remember that I’m young and only human. My mother in our last phone call said that I’m a narcissist. My father wants the money back from my wedding.
M takes it from him. It sits in her palm, a squat little thing that's very white at the top but bloody at the root. She tries to remember what the different kinds of teeth are and which one this is. Around them, the other kids are screaming and prancing but M and V are still, staring at the tooth.
The city is sinking and about to go underwater. You don’t understand that the city is sinking and about to go underwater. I can smell the trash outside getting wet with anticipation.
I think of his mouth saying andante. Saying hunger. Of my body, sheer anatomy. Dust and dust, and what—what makes the music? What does bone-tinged music want from me? I spoke to my stomach, said child, you won't survive.
After the disaster, we were shuttled in busses to the elementary school. We were a soft-footed herd. They turned us towards the entrance, combating the mass distraction of our frozen thoughts. We were demagnetized compasses, nothing but spinning needles.
If Nell were in town, I would’ve opened the Pinot Grigio and I would’ve been laughing. I’d have been convinced into the red dress. On my own I drank mint tea and gazed into the dark mole at the base of my neck, feeling tragic. Its single hair seemed to have darkened, thickened, even. Plucking was not an option - I imagined blood, the necessity of a bandage or a turtleneck. Even trimming unnerved me. I’ve never had good depth perception. I didn’t trust myself not to miss the mark completely.
Dennis and Susan were relatively new friends of Liza and Natalie, and they were those people. The kind that made Audrey feel both resentful and vaguely turned-on at the same time. Well-educated, straight teeth, J. Crew everything. She found herself genuinely wondering what their skin care regiments entailed, and she loathed herself for it.
When her aunt called her to ask her about what it was like, Eleanor didn’t let on that she thought she might be miserable, or that misery might be in store for her, incubating under her skin. She had noticed on the trip down, trailer of possessions in tow, that some of the names were magical here, too, and this made her hopeful. Golden, Falling Spring, Backbone. Maybe they’d be worth seeing.
Two weeks later, a big envelope arrives in the mail. Her name is Lucia and she is seven years old. She lives in Ecuador. In the picture she looks small, and when he puts her height and weight into an online BMI calculator, it confirms that she is slightly underweight. Not horribly underweight, not exactly starving, but still. The organization sends a piece of stationary and he writes a short letter, with simple sentences.