What is it like to be so in love?

What is it like to be so in love?

We’re holding on tight together in the shower, hot taps running down skin and between fingers and toes. We’re falling into fresh sheets on the feather bed, our bodies wrapped tight in blankets, covered in pillows. Touching and laughing about nothing. There’s a small bar at the end of the block – an old and rickety place that smells like cigarettes even though they banned smoking indoors years ago (except in casinos, where rules don’t really apply). It’s hot in this bar, because it’s so small and so full of people. Even (or especially) in winter. People yell for drinks and cheer for their favorite team on the screen overhead. Potato chips hang from the wall behind the bottles: the only thing they have to eat. There’s a dartboard in the back – slightly crooked, like an open mouth with sharp teeth. We throw darts and I let her win. She lets me win. And then we have one more drink while the football game or the baseball game plays overhead, with everyone watching but us. We cheer when they cheer. Everybody stands crowded around the bar holding glasses and magic wands that will make their problems disappear. We carve out a little space of our own to throw darts. We talk about leaving – about long road trips across the country the way used to do – before – when the wide open spaces of the country were still a mystery and the open road could stretch on and on and on until, finally, it stopped at the edge of vast and insurmountable ocean. And everyone knows that...
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 her fingers. There’s a loaf of bread and garlic next to her with a piece missing. And she says, “Forgive me, but I was so very hungry. You’re late.” “I’m sorry.” “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 noodles, 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, so nothing is far away. It was the opposite the last time we had sex. It was the last time 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 recently. 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 to a guy with a strong jaw taking the leading lady in his arms and telling her, “You’re silly.” “What?” The heroine asks. “To think that the money that you’ll inherit from your mother is...
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. And neither did anyone else, as far as she knew. 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 on the edge of the river was large enough that they could (mostly/almost) coexist without crossing paths. Gogo told me she could dissolve into a glass of water when he yelled for peace and quiet. When I visited her we stayed in her room. If we were hungry we left her house and went to the diner nearby. If her uncle was in a particularly foul 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 covers, holding each other and whispering about where we would go tomorrow, next month, next year, forever. We read books to each other. Great Russian literature and the American classics. We tackled “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...
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...
The cruelty of children

The cruelty of children

There are some who say that cruelty is learned, and not inherent – the result of trauma and abuse early in life. Freud’s view was that cruelty is natural; that sadism (the want/need/desire to do harm to others) is the forgotten child of sexual desire and aggression, based in biology and psychology and a deep-rooted part of human nature. I’ve always liked British psychoanalyst and author Christopher Bollas’ view: He believed that beneath hatred and hateful behavior lies a pure and simple emptiness; that anger and hatred and subsequent cruelty are nothing more than ways of filling that emptiness. And, he said, importantly, that it is better to feel cruelly than to not feel at all. Cruelty among others Johns Berry came to live in our neighborhood the summer before we started eighth grade, and only a few days before my 13th birthday. He lived in the house across the street from mine. A house with three stories. Mine has only one. The third story is just an attic for storing things you wouldn’t be sad about never seeing again, but it was nice. It has big windows facing the street and pillars like Old Rome across the porch. Nobody else in the neighborhood cared about his house, though. They cared about his face. There was a rumor going around that that Johns Berry’s face was burned all the way through, caught in a fire when he was a baby, and now he wears a mask to cover it up. A hospital-blue mask that hangs loose around his skin. There was always spit running down his neck because he...
Why I like the rain, and why a dream is different during the day

Why I like the rain, and why a dream is different during the day

The sun shines through the window across all the stuffed animals Lala left behind in her room. It rained last night. There’s a rabbit sitting outside of my window, staring at me. So skinny I can see its ribs. The ghost of my grandmother comes and visits me every morning around this time, but today it’s just the rabbit. I believe in science, but she comes anyway. Science says if things move fast enough, they disappear. So we don’t really exist. We’re just moving slow enough to see what’s going on around us. Part I: Home Mom is watching TV on the couch, sweating with her stomach hanging over her knees. Tucker must be around somewhere else. I don’t hear him like I usually do when I get home from school. Maybe he’s in the garage. Maybe he’s out with a girl. It’s hot. Mom has the fan blowing right on her face so no one else can get at it. The AC is broken, it has been since last summer, and all we have is one fan for the whole house. She hogs it all to herself. Except for the one that Tucker uses in the garage, but that one is built into the wall so we can’t move it anywhere else. We don’t have any cereal left in the cupboard. I make myself a peanut butter sandwich instead. Food doesn’t last as long when it’s this hot. If we leave the bread sitting on the counter for just a week it turns blue-green and moldy. That happened once and mom got so mad at me I thought...