The Seasons

The Seasons

In Summer. The sun shining from its perch high in the sky. I remember riding my bike through the alley. I slipped and fell and skinned my knees and hands. Gogo and I snuck into the University Club on Grand Hill overlooking the city. We hold hands and go skinny-dipping in the pool. I find a diamond necklace left at the bottom near the drain – I give it to Gogo and tell her to keep it, to wear it, show it off like we have money for diamonds. She says, But. What if I see the woman who owns this necklace? What if she sees me with it on? And what if she says it was me who stole it? What then? I say, And? What then? She laughs and put the diamonds around her neck. She still wears them, I think, but not on special occasions. With t-shirts and sneakers and jeans. In Fall. The small white house on the corner of Webster Street. The lady who lives there who looks like my grandmother. She waves at me from the porch with her wrinkled brown palm as I pass on my bike. Once, two-or-three years ago, she beckoned for me to come inside. She gave me cookies still warm from the oven. My memories are made of brick and cement and glass. My dreams are bathed in waning sunlight of an autumn day. Long shadows creep over fences and pull at the sidewalk after 4. My dreams are apples picked from trees and flat piano notes from songs I never learned how to play. The air is...
What is it like to be so in love?

What is it like to be so in love?

We stand in the shower. Holding our bodies tight, close together. Hot taps run down our skin, between our fingers and toes. Then: We’re falling into the fresh sheets of the feather bed, our bodies wrapped up in blankets and sheets, surrounded by pillows. There’s a small bar at the end of the block. An old, rickety place that smells of cigarettes still – though cigarettes have been banned indoors for years. It’s warm in this bar. Always, no matter the season. Because it’s small. And. So full of people. In winter, when people yell for drinks and cheer their favorite teams playing basketball on the TV overhead, potato chips hang from the wall behind the bottles, the only thing there is to eat. There’s a dartboard on the wall in the back, hanging slightly crooked, like an open mouth with sharp teeth. Have another drink. The game above is last second, hold-your-breath, one shot, two-points, three, down-to-the-wire. We throw darts and I let her win. Then she lets me win so we both go home happy. We talk about leaving. About a long trip. A trip across the country. But before, long ago, when the wide-open spaces of the country were still a mystery to men. And when the open road could stretch on and on. Until finally it came to an end at the edge of the ocean. Anything is possible at the end of the road. America is not the mystery she once was. Her curves have been brought out into the light. Her rolling hills and long prairies and badlands now documented and developed. But...
When the world becomes water

When the world becomes water

Gogo stands over the oven. She is sweating – the air is warm and humid, even at night. She is cooking when I come through the door, licking her mother’s recipes from the wooden spoon. There’s a loaf of bread and garlic next to her with a piece missing. And she says, “Forgive me. I was so very hungry. You’re late. I started eating.” She wipes her hands with a white towel from the rack. “I couldn’t wait.” Only the light over the sink is on, keeping the kitchen in shadows and smells. I take a bowl from the cupboard and she fills it with pasta, tomato, garlic, wine. We sit down at the small wooden table pushed against the wall and eat mostly in silence. We fall asleep on the couch after we’re finished, watching something on TV that we’ve both seen before. The apartment is only one room. Nothing is far away. Yesterday it was the opposite. We fell asleep together in the bed – slept someplace other than the couch. “You’re early,” she had said, her hair pulled across her forehead, panting, licking her lips, unsatisfied. We watched a movie the night before that. I don’t remember the title. It was something that Gogo wanted to watch and I fell asleep before it was over. I woke up near the end. A man with a strong jaw taking the lady in his arms and telling her, “You’re silly.” “To think that the money that you’ll inherit from your mother is what makes you special. It makes you no different than the homeless man your mother gave...
Not for sale

Not for sale

Gogo was raised by her uncle after her mother died and her father left for Africa. Her father never returned from Africa, and whether he was alive or dead she never found out. Her uncle was large and had a strong jaw. A head shaped like an anvil. His words had the same sort of weight. But he didn’t say much, thankfully, and his house was large enough that they could (almost) coexist without crossing paths. Gogo told me she could dissolve into a glass of water when he yelled for peace and quiet. The house was on the edge of the Okopai River. When I visited we stayed in her room. If we were hungry we left her house and went to the small diner nearby. If her uncle was in a bad mood we stayed at my place, hiding beneath the covers of my bed so that my parents wouldn’t know she was there. We were safe beneath the blankets, lying close together and whispering about where we would go tomorrow, next month, next year, forever. We read books to each other. Great Russian literature and American classics. We read “Waiting for Godot,” which was one of her favorites: We said we would go and see it performed one day when we had the money. We read poetry and wondered how so much could be said with so few words. My parents never caught us. Gogo always slipped through the window before sunrise and before my dad started making jokes at the breakfast table where I pretended to laugh. My dad always said, “You can’t be a...
It would be safest if you ran

It would be safest if you ran

There has been, of late, a focus on borders and walls. And, consequently, a rise in xenophobia. Or is it because of xenophobia that there is a focus on borders and walls? Populism has always existed, but the sentiments that elected the current administration seem to be the result of a “chicken or egg” conundrum: Are people scared because the world is scary, or is the world scary because people are scared? But the rhetoric itself has changed in the United States: The denial of the USA as a “country of immigrants” and open borders has been the guiding force behind recent policy in the White House. The conversation is not about coming together as much as it is keeping out the “unfamiliar.” The notion of community becoming something more rigidly defined: who belongs, and who doesn’t, and who gets to decide. But perhaps it was always there, as has been suggested by the Washington Post’s America has always been hostile to immigrants, among others. The United States of America has always had a nativist streak – a populism as inward-looking as today’s “America-First-Make-America-Great=Again” mantra that has led to so much hatred and violence from the ruling class. People can’t really be to blame for feeling scared, they tell us. As humans we pride ourselves on our autonomy; our ability to be in control, to conquer, to rise above. We are in control. We need to be in control. And when we can’t give the enemy a face, a face must be given: Muslims. Immigrants. “Welfare Queens.” Others. Them. The people you don’t know. It doesn’t matter, of course, that there is no...
Lazy days, falling asleep, stuck in school, dreaming

Lazy days, falling asleep, stuck in school, dreaming

I don’t want to be here, my eyelids getting heavy. My back starting to hurt. I don’t want to stay sitting, stuck at this desk in this classroom of this school that smells like old wood and grandma’s books. Mr. Jalle up front talking about history and politics and why we are where we are. But he can’t explain why I am where I am. I think sometimes about climbing the trees outside, climbing to the very top, then jumping off with my arms outstretched because I think I can fly. My eyes are open. I see something in front of me. Dark green, watery green, swamp. I’m underwater. My eyes are open. The water stings my eyes. I reach forward with my hand. There’s nothing. I’m choking on swamp water that tastes rusty like old nails and tonic. “You’re blind,” the voice in my head tells me. Mr. Jalle’s voice up front is like a hum, steady, like low-fi bass reverberating in my ears. I don’t hear anything he says. I’m listening. I don’t hear anything except for the sound in my head. Chatter, like radio static, noise. The bass low and steady in my ears. I’m blind, I think. I’m blind. I don’t need to learn any of this. What good will it do me if I understand the Emancipation Proclamation? I can’t run for president if I’m blind. There’s never been a blind president. How would I get to the podium to give the speeches like I see on TV? With someone helping me every step of the way? Holding my hand? How would I negotiate...