The Dynamic

“What did I do, Mom? Just tell me! If I didn’t do anything, why are you acting like this?”

Mom looked up from the table. “Acting like what?”

I closed my eyes for a moment and failed at regaining my composure. “Nothing, Mom. It’s just that I thought all of this shit would stop once I got a mortgage of my own. I thought our family would sort of just grow out of this thing we’ve got going. I can’t fix a problem if I don’t know what it is.”

She glanced sideways, as though considering the consequences of speaking honestly. Her breaths drew more slowly. “I thought you were going to stop dating that Jewish girl.”

The room inflated and deflated synchronously, and I found myself chuckling at the impossibility of settling our differences.

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Tree of Life

We must be in more of this world. We must taste the Russian potatoes. Can’t you feel the Caribbean warmth on you back? Hear the calm static of the ocean? See the shore crashing violently against the waves? Can’t you taste the tahdig of Iran? Is it served with pears? Or is it eaten alone, with clean hands and dusty arms? Tell me, can you taste the sharp British yeast over the oily ink spotting your tongue? Japan will teach you to eat kudzu like a sweet bean sprout, but the American South will teach you that the east coast carpet tastes more like chemicals and pollution and (on the unluckiest of days) a hint of poison ivy. Is our fruit too plump and ripe to be held on the vine? Are these ever-expanding highways too vast for mere mapmakers? I tell you only once, fearful child: it is better to stand at the base of this fruit tree crying at the impossible choice and taste nothing but your own tears, than to step ever-further from the tree so as not to smell the rot of un-chosen fruit.

An entirely fictional celebration.

Most people save the best bite for last, but I’m an expert. I start with the least deserving bite and slowly whittle it down to the 1st class cake. If cake wants to survive a little longer around me, it has to earn the privilege. It’s just delicious. That’s why I started baking.

My boss was a different character entirely. Penney was a strict believer that strife encouraged bonding, so she was careful to never be fully-staffed. Someone got stuck in the snow? Your vacation just got cancelled, buddy. You should know better than to try to leave town. Summer? Flat tires from construction, overheating engines. Autumn? There’s so much work to go around that it’s exhausting even with all hands on deck. Winter? Snow. Ice. You know the drill with carrying mail in the winter, when the bitter rain freezes into your gloves and the only way to wiggle your fingers is to trade them out for the spare, soggy pair drooping on the defroster. And Spring? Well, spring can be really beautiful. You still have the flat tires, but not quite so many since the nails haven’t really built up numbers yet. Spring feels like the blossoming bud that it is. No one wants to leave town during spring.

Anyway, what was my point? Oh, yeah. Even when your boss barks like she’s still in the military, and you got a flat tire in the pouring rain, and your spare had an unnoticed leak that left you pounding a plug in the sweltering steam of a 100 degree summer thunderstorm, and your truck smells like rot from the years of moisture built-up driving through rain with your window down, and all your shoes have holes worn in them like you’re some rural drifter, and Marnie in Apartment 12B wants your boss to make sure you haven’t been stealing her therapeutic shoe catalogs, do you know what you should do?

Have a piece of cake; because even a life more abrasive than sandpaper is pretty damn beautiful.

For Mom

The caves seem changed now,

harder to traverse.

With the guide near, we felt a sense of confidence.

Assuredly.

Stepping onward; trekking with fervor and excitement.

Now we call out for the guide,

but we know she has gone before us and stands above us

in the light.

slipping on wet rock

one less spark to show our way

and one less voice to echo off of the cave walls

“Don’t turn left. It’s all dead ends that way.”

She knows, because she has explored that path,

and come to the end of it.

Herself.

I recite to those behind me where the steep drops hide

and pray her echoes don’t escape my memory

before I find my way to level ground

and can feel the sun for myself.

1437 Oak Grove Court

He prodded her in every sense. “It’s okay. Cum for me, gorgeous. I know this is what you really wanted.”

She let out a moan. She was going for guttural, but it sounded more like a presidential candidate speech: completely false. Much like the masses, he fell for it. He landed on her too hard, panting his grand finale. Finally, the deed was concluded.

Mary Beth waited for his heavy body to push off of her like the side of a swimming pool. “Thanks for your time,” she said. “You’re exactly what I’ve been looking for. They’ll be the perfect shade of always-tan. It’s like winning the genetic lottery, really.” She let her dress fall back down over her buttocks and wiped herself with her panties, disposing of them in his adjoining master bathroom.

He looked confused. The situation was unusual, but she had explained everything before they started. He didn’t speak a word.

“Anyway, like I said, thanks for your time. Really, thanks.” She started out the door, looking back to see if he was following. She saw him fall into a bedroom armchair, puzzled at the encounter. Perhaps he could sort it all out better than she.

Mary Beth turned the knob and exited the house at 1437 Oak Grove Court.

Electric Honey

I was waiting for him to show. He was late. He seemed the type to be late. Was I worried?

No.

Yes.

Why do we meet people online? I hadn’t been trying, though. Maybe that’s why it was so strange. Dating sites have some code of conduct. He just sent me a social networking message. Does that really happen? Does that work for people?

He entered, and I recognized him from the photos. He smiled, baring a nearly-black tooth he had hidden well. His smile did not ring true. He was disappointed. He sat, quietly. The band was loud, and he clutched his beer without ever uttering a single word. I screamed “It’s very loud in here.”

“I think I’m gonna go. Do you need a ride home?” He clearly hoped I would decline.

“No, I’ll call a friend.” How perfunctory.

“Are you sure?” He turned and left before I could respond. There’s the punch line, I suppose.

I sent a quick message to my ride. It would be at least 20 minutes before she arrived, and she wouldn’t be happy. I sat alone on the worn leather couch, trying to focus on the music instead of the awkward, stinging situation.

Another man sat away from me, but felt somehow very near. I sensed he had seen the awkward exchange. He had strong features, soft eyes, and his hair had grown longer than trends allowed. He was sitting, but his vast stature was still visible. He looked at me with concern. A moment passed, and somewhere between songs he decided to approach.

“Hey. Who’s your honey?” His voice was deliciously deep, and barely close enough to hear his warm breath over the music.

“Some guy. I think I just got stood up.” The expression on his face was pure compassion. Have you ever seen one part of a person’s soul, and so deeply loved just one facet that you would forgive the rest of it? I did know that with certainty. From the first moment his striking eyes met mine and his strong jaw line shifted to address me, I understood that I would one day forgive him. For what, I did not yet know.

Then, he smiled. Just like that feeling that only exists on schoolyard playgrounds; the type that still have the tall slide.

“Well, that’s a pity. What’s your name, baby?” His expression would normally signal some kind of femininity to me, but on him, is just sounded classically elegant. Everything about him hummed with a vintage brand of comfort; Sinatra on holiday.

I suppose I answered, but my ride rang my cell. “It’s nice to meet you.” He handed over his card. “My networking site is on here. You should add me on your page.” So, I suppose that’s the real punch line.

I looked down at his card. It was clean and simple. “A musician? Yes, you’re definitely trouble.”

He grinned as I got up to leave. I was grateful for the ride, but I also ached to be stranded in his presence.

“See you around, beautiful.”

The House Girl

“Margaret was always treated well. Very well, as I recall. She always sat at the table, just like the rest of us.” My jolly great-uncle relaxed around mother’s little kitchen table.

“Oh, yeah.” My grandmother smiled, remembering her early childhood friend. “She was a real nice lady. I just don’t see what the fuss is over. Black is black and white is white, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Slavery was wrong; I’m not sayin’ that it wasn’t. I just mean, there’s no use in mixing people when they don’t want to be mixed.”

I kneaded the bread as I listened in on my family’s childhood memories, somewhat intrigued by the idea of another world existing in the very same spot as mine. My heart swelled with compassion, not for Margaret, but for my family. They would very likely come to the end of their lives without ever truly knowing themselves or the world they lived in. I wondered what unknowingly dark things I missed in myself; what misconceptions I must overlook.

I searched for a way to shift the uncomfortable conversation, but my sister broke in first.

“Has anyone heard anything about the floods they’ve been having in Colorado?”