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5 Jan

There were just a few animals at the pound that day. I noticed only one, the batcat. Or catbat, a kitten sized bat with the face of a cat. But not any cat. My cat. My cat who had recently left her tiny body to pursue other worlds, her ninth life having expired. I saw her everywhere, around every corner. Her meow woke me in the night as it rang in the center of my ear, like it was coming from inside of me. When it woke me, she wasn’t there. She was nowhere. But every time I walked into the house, the garden, the driveway, I expected her, I felt her. Every time every day, the disappointment of her body not where it should have been, filled my heart with sinking dread. When I found the catbat at the pound, I knew I had to adopt her. They handed her to me in a ziplock bag with an inch of the ziplock open for air. I brought her to the counter and took her out of the bag. This bag will not do, I said. They offered me a blanket to wrap her little body in. Her eyes were closed and I rubbed my finger up the bridge of her nose, like I used to do with my cat, the same little gray face. When I took my hand away from her face, just for a moment, the catbat woke. She leapt up off the counter and onto the floor. Someone was walking in and the front door was open. She ran out into the night. Catch her, I said. But I said it half-heartedly. I knew she had to leave. You can’t have a bat as a pet. Even a catbat. My heart sank, the way it sank everyday since my cat died. I let her go. I let them both go.


Cell Extensions

9 Jun

My hair was getting tangled. There is so much about hair. I started pulling the knots apart strand by strand, knowing if I went too fast I would rip my hair out. A test of patience. One. Strand. Of thick. Black. Hair. At. A time. This girl, this redhead I met at the coffee shop with tight curls, the kind I always longed for – either that or super straight hair, but I ended up with a frizzy Jewfro mess – she was there and her hair started to tangle too. Maybe the humidity was getting to us. (Humidity is both a friend and foe to the thick-ed hair). Her hair started to knot up too but she didn’t panic. She just let the air take control. I wasn’t having it. I slowly moved my fingers through the mess and then reached for a plastic tined brush. I started to brush from the bottom to the top, like they tell you to do on the No More Tangles bottle, and as I pulled the brush through my frizz, my hair grew slick and long. Remember those dolls in the 80’s whose hair you’d brush and it grew longer? Wait, was that a real thing? Well, it was like that. The more I brushed, with each stroke I pulled the brush through my hair, the longer my hair got. I started moving the brush from the scalp down once the knots didn’t need finagling. I pulled the brush down through each section of my hair and soon I had Cher in the 70’s hair. Not long thereafter, Crystal Gayle. I’ll remind you, Crystal Gayle was a singer whose main attribute, though she did have a lovely voice, was straight hair down to her ankles. Literally, a dream come true. My hair was shiny and so long, so fucking long and pulling that brush through it made it shinier, made my scalp tingle with pleasure, and my heart pound with excitement. A mirror appeared before me. I was looking at myself but really just at my insanely amazing hair.

Listen, it’s not about the hair. I have shaved my entire head multiple times, I’ve shaved pieces here and there, cut it into a mullet, a reverse mullet, a chelsea, and a lopsided bob. But really, and you know this, you do, there is just so much about the hair.

New Neighbors

19 Feb

Emma finally sold her house. All these years I wondered what it looked like inside, but she never invited me in. She smiled, she talked to my parents, I envied her colorful flower garden, but that was the edge of our knowing her. When she left, the house sat empty for years. My dad said she priced it too high. But it was huge, and I imagined full of secret passage ways, like the mansion in the Clue game.

My dad said the new neighbors were a nice couple, just moved to the city from down south. An older couple, retired. Maybe they would have us over and I’d get to see what my child mind could only imagine.

I went for a visit over the long Labor Day weekend. Emily was outside picking the last of the bulbs Emma had planted all those years ago. Hello I’m Emily, she said when she saw me watching her. That’s funny, the old owner’s name was Emma, I told her. She smiled and showed me the bouquet. Emma loved her flowers, I said. Yes we are so lucky to have them, Emily said. Then she invited me in for tea. Jackpot.

I walked in through the back door, the one that led to the garden and butted up against our driveway. I was excited, full of expectations, which were quickly deflated. The house was dark. Everywhere. Everything. Where would Emily even put the flowers? All the windows were heavily curtained and there was stuff everywhere, like a cluttered old antique shop full of junk, old metal tins, broken wooden boxes, turned-off lamps covered in dust, and beds. Every room had a bed. The kitchen was tiny, just a bar really, with two queen beds side by side pressed up against the far wall. This is where we sleep, Emily said. She got into one of the beds to demonstrate. We each have our own bed, it’s quite cozy, she said. I pushed out a half-smile and said nothing. Please follow me I’ll show you the upstairs. We walked up a narrow stairwell, a box of junk on each step making the stairs even more narrow. Upstairs she led me to a room with a rocking chair in front of the only uncovered window. An old man with unnatural blue eyes and too-shiny white hair sat in the rocker. He looked straight at me. I felt like throwing up. I turned to Emily but she was gone. When I turned back the man was standing just inches from my face. He grabbed my upper arms and pulled my body close into his. I screamed but my voice sounded calmer than I felt, much calmer than I wanted it to. I pushed him away and started running through the maze of the upstairs. He followed me close behind. I grabbed a metal box and smacked him in the head. He fell to one side but got right back up. He was close and I was still screaming, waving the box behind me trying to smack him away. I ran into another bedroom and saw another uncovered window that opened onto the roof. I pushed open the screen and stepped out. The man was in the room, just about to reach out to me. I screamed again then noticed a half-sized window a few inches below me. I pushed that screen open with my foot and squeezed my body through, monkey-barring along the rafters. That half-window led me into a half-floor, an in-between place. I was hanging, holding onto smooth orange bars that criss-crossed the ceiling. My body felt long, space opening up between the vertebrae of my spine. I looked to the half-window and the man was gone. I let my body hang there, for longer than I needed to, but maybe for just the right amount of time.

Dining On A Plane

6 Aug

Anthony Bourdain was drunk on a plane to Italy. I was on a solo, week long trip and there he was, sitting across from me at a long buffet style table on the airplane. The wine was flowing and he was shooting off his mouth about food and travel, of course. I decided that, when we landed, I would follow him and go where ever he was going. Because, duh. To my left, my mom’s friend started talking to me in Hebrew and I answered her back a little louder than I needed to, in hopes Anthony would hear me and think I was interesting. Maybe then he would take me with him around Italy. I had no plans.

Why do I travel like this, plan-less?

But Mr. Bourdain was too busy waving his wine glass around, slurring about the best places to eat in Southeast Asia. I looked at him, hoping he would catch my eyes. I sent him psychic messages: look at me look at me look at me. I coughed loudly and yelled in Hebrew across the table to another of my mother’s friends. Nothing worked. Anthony Bourdain would never notice me. I realized he probably had security and I would not be able to follow him without getting arrested. I devised a new plan. I would go where ever the Italian wind would take me.


It’s Not About the In-laws

30 Apr

We threw a party at your parent’s house while they were in Europe. First, my friends from high school came and that one guy, Jeff, spun me around to dance in the dark living room. Then, the girl with the curly hair started singing and I noticed beer bottles everywhere. I started cleaning up the bottles while everyone else kept the party going. I couldn’t relax while the house was getting trashed. I opened the front door to make sure your parents weren’t about to arrive, and it had snowed. In May. My heart sank. The anxiety rose.

I continued to clean the house, growing more frantic, and found the white duvet in the bedroom bloodstained. A drunk girl said, “I just got my period,” and walked out of the room. I took the duvet to the bathroom and started washing it with cold water under the sink. Cold cold water is the way to remove blood, especially period blood. The duvet turned pink, brown, then white. There was a tiny stubborn blood spot left, but I thought if I flipped it over, we’d be safe. Just then, your parents came home. The high school friends had gone outside and were smoking and talking too loud, but your parents didn’t know they were there because of us. Your dad was jet-lagged and needed a serious shave, and your mom was pissed at me, but you told me not to worry. “The only thing that matters here is that I love you,” you said. You kissed me. My anxiety dissolved.

I Don’t Hate You, Part 2

9 Mar

I saw the ocean again. From the east end of Lizanne’s pool. Swim to other end and there is the beach, she said. What a long pool, I said to myself.

I saw the ocean again. I saw it from the pool, calm waves the way the ocean is supposed to look, a perm at the end of its life. Relaxed. I saw the blurry outline of beige sand and striped umbrellas. My heart was racing.

I saw the ocean again. My heart was beating fast for no reason, for the reason I thought but didn’t know, the reason I felt in my past but couldn’t see in my present. This is real, I said to the ocean. The other times I was dreaming but now I am really here and so are you.

I’m Too Old For This, Part 1

1 Mar

I was walking on the beach with a sinking feeling in my chest. The college was up ahead, a single level building surrounded by windows. It was beautiful, but I didn’t want to be in school again.

Forty is not too old to start a new life. But too old to be in school with twenty-somethings.

The sky, thirty seconds of clear blue and then darkness, like a dimmer switch turned down in a single motion. I saw the wave rise. The entire ocean lifted into the sky. Not this again, I said to myself. I closed my eyes and crouched down. This was not my first tidal wave. The twenty-somethings spilled out of the college to get a better look. No one was screaming. No one was panicked. Except for me.

I’m just going to pretend it’s not happening, I said to a random girl nearby.

You have to learn to float on your back and breathe, she said.

You can’t just ignore this or you’ll die, another girl said.

If I die, I die. I can’t be afraid anymore, I said.

The water folded over us in a blanket of navy blue. It’s not real it’s not real, I repeated to myself. I closed my eyes again, opened them again, watched people float through the wave like it was a pool party. I couldn’t breathe and everyone else was smiling.

When the sheet of wave finally calmed, I was alone. I looked to the east. The sky was strands of hot pink like an urban sunset. A moment of peace. Light began to resurface. Then, that feeling again. I looked at the ocean. The start of a wave pulled back and lifted up. Again, the sky grew dark.

I hate the ocean, I said to no one.