The Roads That Flood My Mind

The Roads That Flood My Mind

I wish everyone a life of streets and alleys, lanes and country roads. Wet, dry. Narrow, wide. Busy, quiet. Lit, or dark. They are, and they have always been, my escape. My feet follow them, one in front of the other, as I struggle with what feels so heavy on my shoulders. And I’m reminded when I look down, or in fatal despair, toward the sky, of my place in the Universe. That is power.

Thinking back now, I remember more of them than I would have guessed yesterday. One memory leads to another, and then to another. They head in this direction and that, woven together, related but distinct, emanating out from the center, creating a pattern that no single one would hint at. In whole, they map so much of where I’ve come from and who I am. Read More

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The Book Is Long

The Book Is Long

There’s something about the way the light catches him. Something curiously soft about how it falls across his face. I tell him repeatedly what I see in the highlights and in the shadows—scars and freckles I’ve discovered—the hills and the valleys. He doesn’t protest my worship, he just chuckles a bit and let’s a smile slip out of the corner of his mouth until it falls. He turns away from me pulling the covers up around his chin, as if he’s bashful, ignoring that we’re wrapped up together.

It’s Saturday morning observations like this one that might seem the pedestrian thing of love. The quiet, in-the-middle times of a relationship where there’s nowhere in particular to be. The stuff of rom-coms and high school romances. But to me, at the edge of thirty, they are new, and exciting, and scary, and everything I wanted but could never have. So I genuflect to each second that is ours, and pray that none of it will ever feel normal. Read More

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Death of a Friend

Death of a Friend

As children, we talked about enlisting together. We didn’t feel like children then.

He was too sick to enlist when I left. I don’t know if we would have stayed close otherwise. Our lives were already very different before his diagnosis. I visited him in the hospital every time I took leave. It was like a pilgrimage. The first time, both our heads were shaved.

He stopped going to the hospital, and I visited him at his mom’s house. The small town around us seemed as sick as he was, but one of them was improving. I quit going by after he got better. I moved on with my life. I went to college and made new friends. I went home less and less, though I lived much closer. I don’t remember what I was doing when I found out. I remember consciously not asking for details. I felt guilty enough already. Read More

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It’s A Long Way Down

It’s A Long Way Down

Her husband doesn’t call anymore. We leave our phones in the room now anyway. Too many pretty people here. White pebbles and locals raised in a land without modesty. She takes her top off like all of the other girls, lies diagonally to the water. Evenly tanned chests lap up the brutal rays. A joint sticky with sunscreen and a wet copy of Cat’s Cradle. The pages smell like sea salt. She asks me if I can afford another two Coronas. I tell her that I’m beyond broke; it’s time to go home. She says that she’s beyond broken; she’s never going home. Lies and lies and lies and lies.

It took me too long to learn her name. She knows this. I had to ask for the last time last week. Two towns ago. A little coffee shop in the Jewish Quarter. A honey cake I bought her because this city is known for them. She says that hers are better. I don’t believe her. She stirs her black coffee without reason. Without blinking. I justify my work for the Galactic Empire. She tries to explain what the food is like in Ljubljana but never comes close to convincing me she was really there. I tell her it takes more than miles to get away from what we’re leaving behind. No response. Read More

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Appointment with Samara

Appointment with Samara

Samara doesn’t want to discuss her family because, They’re all crazy. At least that’s what she tells me, flatly, and I don’t think twice about trying to change the subject because I know better than to tack too far into seas where there be dragons. Especially on first dates.

She peels the bacon off her burger, confesses that she hasn’t quite adjusted to pork yet—a segue into the formative years she spent in Iran. I slide in a contrived reference to Zoroastrianism, ask about her grasp of Farsi, and we talk about how she owes her existence to the circumstance of revolution. That I’m conversant in these topics is something I hope that she’s impressed by but isn’t, and maybe I can’t blame her. American Intellectualism is what everyone else in the world is expected to know. Read More

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Gemini Ascendant

Gemini Ascendant

Faith reveals to me that she’s a DJ from D.C. and a budding bisexual over two pints of blonde at the hostel bar around 1:00 AM only twenty minutes after I arrived and keeps glancing at her phone because she’s expecting a text from the cute bartender she met last night at a burlesque show who swore she would be free after her shift this evening and wants to meet-up at an after-hours discotheque that she’s been dying to check-out and now I’m being roped into tagging along even though I’m exhausted but of course I cave and call a cab because I can’t stand to say no to new adventures or pretty girls or nights beyond prediction.

She talks to our driver in French with an accent I can tell he finds atrocious and honestly so do I but then again I speak so little and the words she says sound right and her pace is probably fine because he continues making conversation although it dawns on me eventually that it’s only to keep her from getting keen on the fact that he can see down her shirt in the strategically tilted rearview as she leans forward from the backseat to paint her lips in cherry black and while I make a solid effort can’t manage to mime this to her subtly enough for it to not be awkward so I must admit to myself that he may have won this round and I hope he hits a moose on his return trip to the city. Read More

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The Clipper Ship Captain and the Float Queen

The Clipper Ship Captain and the Float Queen

Bert Fischer: You’re like one of those clipper ship captains. You’re married to the sea.
Max Fischer: Yes, that’s true. But I’ve been out to sea for a long time.
– Rushmore (1998)

“You don’t have to be the Float Queen, you know.”
“But of course I do,” she said. “I am the most beautiful girl in Trachimbrod.”

“But you don’t even like it,” he said. “You always complain after.”
“I know,” she said, adjusting the tail, which was scaled with blue sequins.
“Then why?”
“Do you like thinking about Mom?”
“No.”
“Does it hurt after?”
“Yes.”
“Then why do you continue to do it?” she asked. And why, she wondered…do we pursue it?
– Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

It’s a bit after midnight in mid-August of 2006, about ten hours before I move away for college, and in the flickering light of a silent television, I watch her lose the battle between the tears on her cheeks and the white sheets she’s trying to defeat them with. Don’t go, she says, and I don’t know if she means right now or for good, but I have to get up early because the future waits for no one, so I shut her bedroom door after I roll four more bittersweet grenades across the floor: I love you I love you I love you and it’s only a few hundred miles.

In a supermarket line, the second week of April, 2013, I pick-up my phone to an angry voice on the other end saying fuck me for taking her friend to that dance, and, How come you didn’t ask me? Dutifully, I remind her, You have a boyfriend. Read More

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There Is No Magic

There Is No Magic

I met a boy in a car and he asked me if people were born sane or insane. His name was James. He was twenty-four, from Florida, and had a slender build. He had copper, messy hair and a burnished red beard. It was six and a half hours to Belgrade and he was, the entire time, beautiful.

But it wasn’t just that. His personality was magnetic. He threw off immediately any suggestion that we were destined to be strangers. And he told stories with his emerald green eyes. They spoke with equal parts intensity and indifference.

By the time Sarajevo faded in the rearview mirror, he had confessed how he found his way into the backseat of that beaten up Peugeot crawling over this once-war torn country. He self-described as a member of the Entitlement Generation and said he couldn’t imagine being forty, divorced, and trapped in a corporate office in Orlando. So he quit his job, broke-up with his girlfriend, and boarded a plane to Portugal. He started heading east and he’s mostly out of time in the Schengen. He plans to keep heading east and is thinking about Australia next. From there he tells me he wants to sail to South America. Read More

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It Won’t Be Long Now

It Won’t Be Long Now

“It won’t be long now,” my grandmother sighs, studying the November sun. It’s been so lazy this afternoon that she can look it in the eye, can scowl with disapproval as it slinks across the western sky and into last summer’s rice stubble. No point in expecting a late fall 4:00 to feel like anything other than a July 9:00. She thinks this to herself, I’m sure.

Her hands are all knuckles and taut veins against a trembling cane. She stares down at them from in front of the screen door, says Uncle Rick lost a piece of his finger in the drill press last week. He planned to retire this year but changed his mind. Got scared he’d die with nothing to do. The cancer in Aunt Carol’s stomach ain’t calling it quits yet either. Some days she’s in agony and other days it only hurts a lot. All she prays for now are days. Maybe then her kids could visit. Maybe them seeing their mother as something less than eternal is just as painful. Read More

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Back In America

Back In America

I poked my fork along the edges of an Asian salad in a diner peculiarly named “The Coffee Shop.” Of course there’s nothing strange about a diner named “The Coffee Shop.” But that’s assuming that what’s in that diner are the things one would expect to be in a diner. Liquid butter in the large plastic jugs. Eggs and bacon sizzling on a flattop. Home fries and Formica tables. But you don’t get that here. Not in the heart of New York City.

It’s all the more curious here because this diner plays the part aesthetically. Outside it has the seen-better-days neon sign and aluminum flashing around the windows. And, inside, it has the traditional s-shaped counter that curves over itself, the see-through galley kitchen, the ugly teal tile that one would expect. But when you open up the menu eager for a breakfast to spite your arteries you can’t help but mumble to yourself, “Fuck.” Read More

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