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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.


11 Jan

I would go back as me now to remember, to pay better attention, to catalogue stories in my brain detail by detail, to have a photographic memory and write it all into epic novels.

To erase the depression of an incomplete body.

To make out just making out leading to nothing but dry humping, for hours lips chapping the world losing time my body losing gravity and space.

Ringing telephones with no end, no answering machine no voicemail just ringing on and on let it ring for endless minutes, impatiently patient cultivating slow Buddhist focus on one thing, no multi tasking. No. Multi. Tasking.

Wishes for slowness. Wishes for unfinished minds and half bodies to remember better than we all have. Wishes for their eyes to unspiral and see each other.



No Pancakes

19 Oct

My mother bought a pancake house. The kind that serves thin brown coffee out of drip pots. The decaf drip pot has an orange handle, you so you know it’s decaf. My brother and I share a room in the back of the restaurant so that we can wake early and get to work. We don’t have our own bathroom – we have to use the customer bathrooms. Sometimes this is embarrassing. But mostly I don’t care.

The other day, a group of people I went to high school with came in to the restaurant. I tried to sneak by them on my way out of the bathroom, but my brother wanted me go see what they were wearing. I wanted to say, hi, anyway. I heard one of their husbands died recently, from a rock falling on his head right out of the sky.

I spent a long time trying to make my hair look good in the bathroom, then went over to give my condolances. They were not receptive to me. Basically, they just ignored me. I told my brother they iced me. I don’t know why they iced me. Maybe they were too sad to catch up. As I rounded the corner, I saw my ex. It was a day of long-time-no-sees. She was much nicer than the high school people. Her friend saw me and said, oh she should be your girlfriend. And I said, no that’s in the past. The ex and I hugged and she kissed me. I could tell she had a cold but I didn’t get mad. I just wiped her saliva off my face and smiled at her.

That day, I decided I would no longer work at the pancake house. Too much drama. I got on my bike and rode away without telling my mom. Thank god I don’t work there anymore.

Travel Plans

16 Oct

I bought a small two-seater airplane, an air travel sports car of sorts. I don’t know how to fly it, but there are times when such things are irrelevant. What I know is that the trickiest part is landing, and the second trickiest is taking off. Once in the air, smooth sailing. We bought it together, actually, Abby and I.

Behind the two cockpit seats is a kitchenette with a built-in table, like in a trailer. We have had guests here for coffee and dinner. I am usually afraid to go anywhere in it because of the fact that I don’t know how to fly a plane. But Abby always says, you can do it don’t be scared. When I start thinking about the future – what will happen in the air? how does this lever work? where is the runway? – I start to panic. But if I close my eyes and trust Abby’s voice, we end up in one piece on the ground at a new destination.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to learn. Or that I am reckless (though maybe a little impulsive). It’s that sometimes closing my eyes and listening gets the job done better.



Nothing is One Way

6 Sep

There is no human to human love that is unconditional. Not because you are my brother or my mother. Not because you are a child. Not because we’ve known each other for ten years. Love has boundaries. Everything else is romantic delusion.

Even when we say no expectations, we expect to be respected. We expect to be heard, to be equal, to not get smothered in fire. Love is like joy and sadness and anger. It comes, it goes, it is triggered. It swells and it deflates, sometimes to the point of rot and uninflatability.

My love has reasonable conditions.

A Job’s a Job

5 Jul

I took a new job, twenty minutes away by bus then roller coaster. I’ve never commuted by roller coast before. My stomach drops every time we go around a big twist. The bottom of each two-person car is made of glass and I can see the city like an ant farm. This also makes my stomach drop.

The job is at a falafel place where you order at the counter. The colors are red and white and I have to wear a white paper hat. I feel too old to be doing this. But a job is a job when you need one. My twin and I have taken the job together. She seems to be handling it all better than I am. We haven’t tried the falafel yet, and I imagine it’s nothing like what we had as children in the Middle East. I feel like a traitor. And I’m unsettled by the roller coast commute.