What the boys did not hear from the girls, and what the girls did not hear from the boys, was the shattering, shattering, shattering. Only the Revere girl could hear it. Only the Wellesley boy could make her lips unkissable, but not sealed. And she said, you can’t leave here the way you are. And he said, I thought, I thought you knew. Didn’t you?What the boys did not hear from the girls, and what the girls did not hear from the boys, was the shattering, shattering, shattering. Only the Revere girl could hear it. Only the Wellesley boy could make her lips unkissable, but not sealed. And she said, you can’t leave here the way you are. And he said, I thought, I thought you knew. Didn’t you?
She peels down the steps past the same planets she saw on her way up. The land beneath her gradually comes into focus; a group of seagulls picking at something in the sand, the grid of sidewalks. She thinks that when she gets home she will bake her mother a pink cake with five layers.
As the old white lady stood there, with her slightly slouched, guilty-looking body language, I realized that there was something familiar about her, but I couldn’t place it. It was like she was one of my close friends’ grandmothers whom I’d met before briefly, but I knew that wasn’t correct. Then again, she looked like every white person’s grandma.
As the train rattled through the darkness, she reached into her pocket and felt the ticket stubs. She ran her thumb along their ragged edges. She was tired and weak, dizzy with the day’s efforts, but it had been worth it: now her boy would have a good life, with a good mother who could afford to shop at fancy stores and take him to the zoo every day.
Everything was dark for a really long time. Her mind tried to push through in the morning, but couldn’t even then. She finally woke up surrounded by red vomit, and considered herself lucky she’d fallen asleep sitting up on the couch. She said “lucky” one or two times before it became meaningless. She was chasing God.
The mayfly perched on my shoulder. “Angry is better than sad. But unsheathing a sword at an insect is useless. I only live one day, but I hear many stories, some of them human, some of them not human. Tell me your troubles. Even a sheet of paper feels lighter with another hand to carry it.”
I went home with blood in my underwear. When Petra asked what happened later that week, holding my panties like a science project over the washing machine, I told her I started my period. YAY, she squealed, pronouncing me woman. I took the tampons she bought me and dipped them in cups of water, awed at how far the cotton could expand.
Lone white face in a sea of black, Furo learned fast. To walk with his shoulders up and his steps steady. To keep his gaze lowered and his face blank. To ignore the fixed stares, the pointed whispers, the blatant curiosity. And he learnt how it felt to be seen as a freak: exposed to wonder, invisible to comprehension.
Where you’re going I don’t know, and whatever’s motivating you to get there is none of my business, but please tread carefully. Out there, it’s going to be tempting to throw away everything you know about yourself. You’ll find excuse after excuse to take on new personas. And then you won’t know what parts of you are real.
Magda is six foot in work heels and billed herself as Jessica, as in Rabbit, way before zaftig redheads got popular, but her ex Shawn is small and freckled, and Magda once told me, drunk over steaks at Moxie's, that the skin of his spine smells like a milk-bathed baby's.
He couldn’t help thinking that the fish, cruelly separated from the water and thrashing its tail angrily, wriggling helplessly, was almost as big as he was. He felt there had to be something else, a reason to throw the fish back into the lake, and as far away from him as possible, before the creature had no option but to use a secret weapon – its dorsal spikes perhaps, the ones his father said it didn’t have – and to fill him with a dreadful pain in order to get away.
He once raped me in a heap of leaves in the woods. It was at a party. I don’t remember much besides hearing the laughs of the rest, who were probably by the fire pit, talking about a band or maybe graduation. I remember he was strong. He smelled like dust. Before he brought me there, he told me he could love me.
“I think we need it. All of us,” she says, serious for a second because that’s what divorce does, but she doesn’t let it linger, “we’ll go back to France, the Dordogne. Or the Riviera. Do you remember France? Dan was twelve I’m sure. That would have made you eight. Or nine.”
After a time, the figure settled back down into his former place, became one of the bodies on the floor, unable on the one hand to discern a path in the jigsaw, unable on the other to force what will he did possess upon them. Then again, perhaps he had been afraid his warm gap on the floor would close.
"Water? Coffee? Tea?" the receptionist asked. I asked for water. She returned with a small bottle and a rocks glass on a wooden tray. She set the tray on the coffee table in front of the couch, poured the water from the bottle into the glass, set the glass down on a coaster then left with the tray and the empty bottle.