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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fiction, continued

The train wasn't crowded.

She sat in a far corner, the duffel bag on her lap, hugging her knees to her chest. Nobody noticed her. Even if they had, she thought, in this place they would not have cared.

Resting her head against the window, she silently cried as she fought off sleep.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Today the rain pours down without giving any hint of stopping. Everything is wet, drenched. Downtown, people hunch under awnings and run across the street, dodging puddles.

I'm reminded of the houseplant I soaked in my sink last night - the smell of wet earth is everywhere.

I walk with my face held up to the sky, letting the drops splash
on my skin.


In my dream, the coin hit the edge of the golden bowl and settled inside. This meant something of great importance - the coin signified my duty, my obligation to past, present and future. It spelled out my destiny and I was bound to follow. And so I set out on my way.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hard lesson learned

No matter what, never, EVER cheat on your mechanic. NEVER.

Tired party dog

Yesterday we laughed until our faces ached.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


The road ahead is golden and endless. He laughs as I lean out the open window, hot air rushing in, trying to capture the blurry landscape. I sing badly at the top of my lungs and hope that the road goes on forever.

8:30 a.m. on a Sunday...

...is far too early for cars broadcasting hip-hop to park outside my window.

And also far too early for me to refrain from telling them so, quite loudly.

Friday, August 26, 2005


In the convenience store, she looked up at me.
Sticky cheeks, tangled curls, tiny hands that clutched a styrofoam cup. She had a squeaky voice.

She begged her father to look at her, to pay attention to her, to notice her. She broke my heart.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hotel in the evening

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


The words I read had no special meaning to me. They were just words; they meant something irrelevant. They were a tossaway comment from a stranger. They were not words I would save.

But they gave me a rush of warmth, flushing my cheeks and drawing a Mona Lisa smile. They spoke to me of autumn, of new beginnings, of nights touched by the crackle of frost and days clinging to the last late-afternoon sun. The words reminded me of evenings warmed by exotic teas, wool sweaters and thick winter blankets, when we would again sleep close together with only our noses exposed to the morning chill.


Gingerly they walk in front of my car. She grips his hand with the habit of a lifetime together, the memory of a million walks like this one. She leads the way, and he bears her weight on his arm.

They are united and alone: an island that so long ago lost contact with the mainland. The world moves much faster now than they can keep up. But they know each other so well, and they hold on for dear life.

They enter the hospital doors together.

Fiction, continued

It seemed as though it had happened to someone else. When she thought about it now, she couldn't hear the sound of John's screams - although she could see his mouth, open and distorted. She could remember Carlos' face, purpling as he swore and spat at her, but the words themselves were muted. It seemed almost as if she had been underwater.

She knew that they would find out what she had done. Despite the darkness, she walked close to the buildings to hide the blood which had somehow smeared everywhere.

She stopped at a newstand and bought a t-shirt. As she pulled it on over her clothes, the man behind the counter leaned out: his interest had been piqued by her battered face. One hand began to reach for his mobile phone.
"He likes it rough," she told the man, imagining that she was the type of the woman who would do that - and more - for money, for a way out. He leaned back, suddenly bored. Whores were a dime a dozen; they were of no interest to him.

The train station was just a few blocks away.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I rode the elevator with her - up five flights, or was it four? She was dark and beautiful.

We went through the same door, signed in at the same desk. I looked enviously at her expensive sunglasses. Her belly was swollen, peeking out from above her pants, and I was jealous of her, jealous of the new life she was about to begin.

She told the nurse her birthday. It was 12 years after mine. Was she married? "Single," she muttered, looking down at her perfect feet. She was silent and embarrassed. She was scared.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Sometimes I forget to be thankful for all that I have. My life is, honestly, quite a good one.

I am fortunate to be so fundamentally happy that I have the luxury of obsessing over small things. I have a good job, a beautiful home, a family that loves me. I am one of the lucky ones.

Fiction, inspired by Arturo Perez-Reverte

One and a half times.

One and a half times he had succeeded while she had tried to ignore the tequila on his breath and the sticky smell of his sweat.

One and a half times before John, overeager for his turn, had pulled his friend away and turned to her himself. The gap had been enough for her to find, with one hidden hand, the small bedside lamp. It was too delicate to be useful, but she unplugged it and held the three-pronged cord in one fist. As John approached her she brought the plug home.

She had been hoping (not knowing much about electricity) that this would electrocute him. But she was satisfied with the amount of pain it had caused instead, and shakily she stood, half-trying to rearrange her clothing.

She had not planned far enough ahead. Now she faced Carlos, circling her as she stood over his screaming friend, and she had no weapons left save her clenched fists.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


She chased him verbally, around and around the room in increasingly frantic circles. At last he ducked for cover from her hailstorm of words and slipped outside, where the beat of the rain did less damage.

She turned to me mournfully and lamented their problems. But I had no answers to give her.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Last night, surrounded by my favorite music, we rested under a huge canopy while the heavy white moon glowed above.

We ate chowder and walked by the docks; we laughed and sang and danced. When the August wind blew cold on the backs of our necks, we huddled together for warmth.

To my left, a parental couple kissed like hormonal teenagers. We grinned at one another; the music was friendly and contagious.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Rush hour

In the mass of cars, creeping along in our assigned paths, the dark man in the SUV was determined to take over my spot. I was equally determined not to cede any territory.

Hidden by sunglasses, I looked at his angry face in my rear-view mirror. He held his hands to his face and waggled his fingers at me. It was, clearly, a schoolyard jinx. In case I hadn't gotten the message, he did it again.

Far from feeling threatened or annoyed, his odd curse elated me. I laughed for the first time all day.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


In my mailbox this morning, a pug grinned up at me from the cover of a magazine I've never seen before. He's addressed to me, but how or why he arrived here, I have no idea.
I'll attribute him to the canine gods who must be watching over me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


It is hot today. The heat rebounds off the midday asphalt and invades my body like waves of meditation. It seeps into my muscles, slows my breathing, lowers my shoulders.

On days like this my subconscious can remember the steppes of Africa, the savannah of the South — though I've been no such place. It reconnects my fragmented thoughts and makes me thankful for my beating heart, for the sweat that forms on my neck. The heat makes me glad to be awake and glad to be alive.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hotel gym

I went downstairs bleary-eyed, to raise my heartbeat and sweat away last night's dinner. The machine was so old and feeble I felt like a medieval giant, stomping out villages and shaking the ground with each tremendous step.

The middle-aged Asian couple who preceded me looked questioning, apparently bewildered by my fugitive hair and Neil Diamond t-shirt.
I closed my eyes and stomped, stomped, stomped until neither I nor the machine could take any more.

Monday, August 15, 2005


The lights went out with a dull thud, as if they had all suddenly dropped to the floor at once. We looked at one another in the dark.

The man on TV had been at the height of his desperation when he vanished. For a while, we stared at the big black box, patiently waiting for another dose of electronic sustenance. But the man remained firmly hidden, and we wondered aloud at his fate.

We wandered from room to room, observing for the first time the
B-movie quality of our bedroom when lit by cracks of lightning, and laughing at our faces illuminated by flashlight. We drank warm red wine from thick tumblers and dug out our books to revisit favorite places by candlelight.

I was sorry when the lights came back up.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Approval, II

I'm not supposed to base my own feelings of self-worth on what others think of me. I'm to shrug off their criticisms, turn a cold shoulder to rejection, and continue on undaunted. I'm not supposed to stagger off my path from a glancing blow to my self-esteem. So I'm told, over and over.

But I want to be approved of, want to be liked, want to be admired. Can I help that? It will always be a hard lump to swallow when I don't get my way.

Head. Ache.

I must have done something really terrible in a past life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I've put myself out there - on display, a hypothetical operating
table - presented myself for approval or rejection.
It is a shrinking experience. Who wants to show themselves,
as naked as can be, and wait for judgement?

The waiting could be the hardest part. But I think it's rather
the slightly desperate feeling of wanting something, and knowing
that whether I achieve it is so utterly out of my control.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Today the air is thick with unshed sweat, like the lump in the back of my throat as tears threaten their invasion.

At times the world proposes to become unbearable. I have to believe that I am better than this, but perhaps all along I've been mistaken. Perhaps, actually, I'm the same as everyone else.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Yesterday I said goodbye

She's reaching the end of her time: so many years well-spent with a family that adored her and still does. Her color is faded and her eyes have clouded; her legs are no longer stable. I don't see her as often now. She stays at home, curled by the fire or pacing a path into the carpet.

She can no longer hear me when I whisper in her ear as I did when we were young. She can't keep up with me when I walk; she can't follow me out the door. But still she comes to me with an open heart, trusting and true.

I may not see her again. Time keeps up its relentless march and I may not be there when she has to venture, bravely, into whatever comes next. I pray that it comes quietly to her as she is warm by the fire or soft in her bed. I tell her again of my love and hope that despite ears too old to hear me, she understands.

Yesterday I said goodbye.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Nature, censored

I'm leaving to spend the weekend with nature -
but nature will be surely filtered.
I'll eat from a blue boxy cooler and drink from plastic and glass.
I will sleep sheltered and roast by the light of kerosene.

It was so long ago that my ancestors killed and cooked and ate,
by wood and stream and fire. How much softer I am than they were.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The edge

Sometimes I think I would like to be on the cutting edge.
I would determine the future and plunge ahead, unafraid to fail and hungry to learn what comes next.
It would be lonely, and frightening. But my path would be blazed with power, short and bright, until I faltered or inevitably burned out. Would I be remembered?

Obscurity is never glamorous. It won't land me in headlines or newscasts. It won't see my name drawn from the stone of a plaque or a wall or a monument.
But it is safe, and comfortable. It is homecooked food on a humid, candlelit night with companions who make me laugh until my cheeks hurt.

I know my choice was actually made long ago.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


I hate that when I find myself - in one small moment - to be purely happy, I always look over my mental shoulder to check for the despair and disaster that I am certain are creeping up to ambush me from behind. As if I know that if I let my guard down, I'll be sucker-punched by fate.


I may have found an answer.

Not all the answers, and not even a particularly big one.
But one that I really wanted, one that will lift what has become a huge burden on my life.

Shhhh, don't frighten it. I've searched too long to risk spooking it now.

Monday, August 01, 2005


Again I wonder when she will notice me, will realize that I am standing in shadow, waiting, calculating, watching her.
That I am patient to receive her into arms aching from having been held open so long.

She's still swimming; she thinks she's making it. But I (who know better) will see the world swallow her in slow, patient gulps.

She will not stay afloat. She cannot breathe without me.