Thursday, June 25, 2015


I keep thinking about
my legs like dead branches,
pointed in the way they always are,
blood rushing from my body,
saying, “I’ve never felt so attractive,”
with the normal edge to my voice,
and the kiss that followed
when everything was okay again.

(it’s not anymore)

Eulogy in Vignettes

            Grasping, thinking, breathing, these things are more difficult than you remember. If you could just call them all back, summon them from death (the death that you made for them), things might be better. Or messier. But in any case, they would be different than they are now.
            But once you’ve sent someone to the dead, there’s no retrieving them. There’s no lying down in warzones; we’ve said it before. So take a deep breath and count yourself as lucky. You get to live and dance with everything that was left behind. You get to make house keys out of pieces of broken glass.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Hunger Strike

            The moment you taste the vomit in the back of your throat is the end; but you already knew that. It burns there, and you ignore it. The disappointing thing about expectations is that sometimes they come true. Sometimes everyone behaves as though they knew what they were from the beginning. In this moment, the argument over nature versus nurture will play through your mind and you will know that it is neither, but something else entirely different. It is something that swells in your brain, both there and not there, that accounts for the decisions we make. You watch your limbs moving in this moment and have trouble believing that you would ever do these things to yourself; but there it is.
            Of course, your body knows before you know. The knowledge of this reality is as old as anything has ever been. Your chest waits for the blow that is coming; it’s not a physical blow, but then emotional pain has always had a place in destroying the human spirit. You put your hands up to block it, but you feel it anyway. The crush starts from the inside and works its way out. Your fingers shake as you wipe the sweat from your forehead. It takes over every part of your brain until it seems like someone is beating the rhythm of this feeling into your skull. You finally surrender yourself to it, and let everything go.
            And then it stops. The wave passes as quickly as it came. You become hyperaware of the tiles beneath your knees. They press into your skin and try to make their mark. Your shaky legs press into the ground and try to raise your body up. You feel the blood rush from the top of your head down to your feet. The thing that whispers in your ear and tells you about your needs has been quieted for the moment. You want to enjoy the quiet, but it is, in its own way, deafening. You place your hands over your ears, and things get a little better.
            You rise from where you knelt on the ground and breathe deeply. It is your first deep breath in a long time, and it transports you far away. This air fills you and comforts you and makes you believe that things might be okay; but this peace is momentary, and soon your insides are twisting again.
            You flush the toilet in front of you and watch as your dinner swirls away. Then you walk to the sink and wash the vomit from your hands. You scrub them with soap twice, but the smell lingers. You glance up at yourself in the mirror, and the banshee that meets your gaze scares you. The dark pockets under your eyes and the sheen of sweat on your forehead tell what has just happened. You know that as soon as your mom sees you, she will know, too. Or at least, she would have before.
            You wash your mouth out next. The water tastes a little like the rusty pipes it was fed through, but that is a better taste than stomach acid. You swish the water around and through your teeth, and then spit it back out in the sink. You are disturbed by its reddish-orange coloring, but it is quickly gone.
            Flicking the water off your fingers, you grab your purse from the hook on the door. Your body feels violated, but you also feel the cathartic release that this ritual always provides. Your hands are still wet when you grab the door handle, so you wipe them on your jeans and then head out.
            What you notice first is that the pace of conversation hasn’t slowed. Here everyone addresses each other as if the world didn’t stop when you were in the bathroom. At first, the noise hurts your ears, but you quickly adjust to it. It’s not hard. This is a skill that is a requirement of being in your family. You can turn down the noise at will and focus on the sibilant tones of one person. This time it is your brother’s voice that cuts through it all. You walk back to where you were sitting at his side and suddenly you don’t know what to do with your hands. Your whole body is exhausted from the effort of throwing up, and your arms hang at your sides like two dead fish. You think this might be suspicious, so you nervously pat your purse with one hand.
            You reach your seat, and your brother is in the middle of a story about college. These stories make you feel alternately relaxed and sad, but right now you are glad for them. You tuck a piece of hair behind your ear and look down at your plate. Now that you have seen what your dinner looks like mid-digestion, the food in front of you is much less appealing. You spear a piece of noodle and chicken with your fork, but when the smell of the sauce wafts up to your nose you almost lose it. You quietly set your utensil across your plate and try to join the conversation occurring at your right.
            “. . .but of course we couldn’t do that, so we ended up going to the grocery store,” your brother, Brian, says. His words are directed at the man across the table, who is your uncle, and his wife. You refuse to think of her as your aunt. Her hand reaches up to her hairsprayed updo as she listens and searches for an errant hair. The corner of her right eye twitches and her hand lowers to pat her stomach. The bright red hair and horn-rimmed glasses of her make her someone that you would normally be drawn to; however, there is a way that she looks at you that you don’t like, and it has made you form an unearned narrative about her past. You always want to grab her and shake her, but you haven’t done it yet. Brian continues, “You should have seen the look on the checkout lady’s face! I’m sure we were the first guys to ever come in there wearing Tigger onesies.”
            The uncle and his wife wait for a moment as they ponder whether or not the story is finished. Then your uncle slaps the table with one hand and says, “Boy, you sure are one funny dude! I was never doing anything like that when I was in college. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the infantilization of this generation. We would never have had the time to pull a stunt like that . . . When I was your age, I was already holding down a full-time job and trying to earn a living for my expecting wife.”
            You feel your irises float up towards your forehead. You have heard this lecture on the crisis that is your generation before. Your uncle likes to take up the subject whenever he detects a tenuous link to it.
            “. . . of course, that was before I met Holly, here.” He glances at the woman seated next to him. “I had no idea the life that was in store for me when I was your age,” Your uncle looks back at your brother, “but I was still taking on responsibility the way any man should.” You grab your napkin and cough into it. A bit of leftover vomit stains its milky white fabric. You carefully push your hand underneath the table and drop the napkin to the ground.
            “What about you, sugar?” It takes a moment to register that your uncle is addressing you. “Have you figured out ‘what you want to do with your life’ yet?” His nostrils flare and you know this isn’t a friendly question.
            Your lips part as you begin to answer. A hundred excuses hang on your tongue, and yet none of them seem ripe for this moment. The urge to crush him runs through you, to make him regret ever condescending to speak to you, but again you realize how tired you are. You want to go back, unnoticed, but it’s too late for that. You begin, “I—“
            Then you hear your name and your head instinctually snaps in its direction. Your mother’s eyes burn into you and she summons you with the crook of her finger. You stand up and resent the scraping sound your chair makes against the floor. You walk to her side and crouch down.
            “Uncle Bob’s getting into the wine,” she says by way of greeting. She indicates him with a pointer finger. “I told you to watch for that.”
            You lift your hands at your sides in a helpless gesture. “What was I supposed to do to stop it?”
            She sighs loudly. “I don’t know,” she says, “but now things are going to be a mess when we try to get him home.” She grabs for her own glass of wine and takes a few gulps. You notice that the skin on her hands is starting to wrinkle. This is the only sign of a stressful life on an otherwise immaculate woman. Her eyes only look tired because you know she is tired.
            “It’ll be okay,” you say. “We’ll figure something out.”
            Your mother nods and looks over at your father. He is starting to stand up, wine glass in hand. You and your mother both know what’s coming, but you watch it happen anyway. “I think, now that we’re mostly through our meal, it’s time I raised a toast. To my beloved daughter, Gracie.” He raises his glass to the opposite end of the table, as do the rest of your family. Only your great aunt looks on disapprovingly. In her eyes, your family doesn’t need another excuse to drink. You look at Gracie. She should be shrinking bashfully into her seat, but she isn’t. Instead, she sticks out her chest and smiles the smile of a woman who has never been wronged. “We are so proud of you, sweetheart. May this year only be the beginning of your successes.”
            “Here, here!” one of your uncles yells. Everyone raises their glasses and begins clinking them against one another. Your lonely wine glass sits untouched. You feel a burning in your stomach and one of your hands clenches. Gracie’s requisite blush has appeared on her face as she forces her expression into the picture of humility. You lean against the back of your mother’s chair for support.
            “What are you doing?” she says. “Get back to your seat.”
            You don’t know why you still follow her commands, but you do. You trudge back to the place from which you were summoned and once again find yourself at your brother’s side. “And that’s when we decided to open the second box of wine!” he says, but this time you can’t figure out whom he’s talking to. Your uncle and his wife are having a heated argument that they’re trying to hide from the rest of the family.
            You scrape your fork’s tines across your plate and wish you had faked sick for this dinner. The cousin at your left is having an animated conversation with the person next to her about your sister’s new job. Gracie was promoted within two years of working PR at a wine company, and so she is the talk of any of the family who knows what is good for them. Your cousin gestures often.
            “I don’t know how she did it,” she says, “but then, Gracie has always been able to get her way. I always thought she would be a success in the corporate world.”
            You don’t hear a response, so you look over at the person your cousin’s talking to. It is another woman, maybe a few years older than you, who is leaning forward and holding onto the table as though it might desert her. She nods in what she probably thinks looks like agreement, but it really looks like resignation. Your cousin is too busy listening to herself speak to notice this, and continues her monologue. One of her hands moves in a wide arc and knocks into her water glass. It doesn’t stand a chance; it falls over towards you and spills all over your plate. You look at it and feel grateful that someone else ruined your food.
            “Oh my god! I’m so sorry!” your cousin yells. The volume of her voice attracts looks from other family members around the table. “Here, let me help you!” She reaches towards you with a napkin, not seeming to realize that the water didn’t touch you.
            “Don’t worry about it!” you say, jumping up; but she continues to reach for you, so you push back your chair and walk behind her. “I’m just going to get cleaned up, or something.”
            You pretend to wipe at your clothing as you make your way down the table. You catch Gracie’s eye as you walk. She stares at you, frowning, and then takes a sip of her wine. You stop walking.
            “What is it?” you say.
            “Nothing,” she says, and the corners of her mouth continue to slide down.
            “No really,” you say, “what did I do this time?”
            She rolls her eyes and scratches the side of her face. “Nothing,” she says. “You just would find a way to make my special dinner about you.”
            You crane your neck forward. “Marcie spilled her water on me. How is that my fault at all?”
            She rolls her eyes again. “It’s not,” she says, and looks away.
            You should keep walking. “And just because we’re having this dinner because of your promotion doesn’t mean everything everyone does has to be about you.” You notice the edge in your voice, and immediately want to take this sentence back.
            “I don’t need everything to be about me,” Gracie says. “It would just be nice if it wasn’t all about you and your huge, dramatic scenes, for once.”
            “What huge, dramatic scenes?” you say, and move so that you are basically standing over one of your aunts.
            “Oh, you know,” she says. Her upper lip is beginning to curl. “Don’t pretend like you don’t know.”
            “No, that’s not good enough,” you say. “If you’re going to accuse me of something, you’d better be ready to pull some actual examples.”
            “Fine,” Gracie says, “then let’s do examples. Do you remember my sixteenth birthday, when you decided to get drunk and throw the cake at mom? Or mom and dad’s twentieth anniversary party, when you went up onto the roof to smoke weed?” Silence has fallen over the entire table, and you are surprised that one of your family members hasn’t tried to interject yet. “Or what about my twenty-first birthday, when we all wanted to—“
            “Okay,” you say, “I get it. You have examples. But I didn’t do any of those things to hurt you or take away the spotlight.”
            “That’s kind of worse,” she says. “In fact, that’s so much worse. That means you’re just a stupid hurricanes that fucks up other people’s lives.”
            A collective intake of breath follows this statement. A few of your family members look at one another. The uncle you were sitting across from takes advantage of the silence. “Gracie, you shouldn’t speak to your sister that way. Nobody deserves that kind of talk.”
            Gracie turns on him. “Shut up, Larry, you’re not my father. Nobody cares what you think.”
            Your uncle starts to turn red and looks like he wants to say something else. Instead, you say, “Gracie, that’s not—“
            “Girls, is this really an appropriate time for this conversation?” your mother asks from the end of the table.
            You both ignore her. Again you say, “That’s not—“
            “It figures this would happen,” your cousin says. “These girls have been at each other’s throats since they were born.”
            You raise your voice. “You don’t get it, Gracie! Try! Try to put the pieces together! The reasons all those things happened wasn’t because of you!”
            Gracie’s brow is furrowed into frustration, but she looks like she’s on the verge of tears. “How am I supposed to know that? Trouble always seems to find you just when I need things to be about me.”
            You want to reach across the table and make some kind of physical contact with her. Instead, you say, “No, Gracie, that’s just when you noticed it. Trouble finds me, it’s true, and it finds me in a pattern, that’s also true. But it’s not you.”
            Gracie’s lower lip trembles. “Who is it, if it isn’t me?”
            She sniffs and you know that she must have been holding onto this for a while. Your eyes move over the table. You are met by the faces of the people you are supposed to love, who barely know you. They search your eyes and mouth for understanding, and are met by the brick wall of your resolution. You know how to hide; you’ve been doing it for years. And yet, here you are. You have never been more visible in your entire life. The knowledge of this makes you want to throw up again, but it also makes you feel in command. For half a second each, you lock eyes with everyone at the table. Only one person looks down. They know, as you know, why your behavior is reduced to this every time the family gets together. But you can’t say it. You look back at Gracie.
            “It doesn’t matter,” you say. “Please, I never mean to hurt you.”
            She shakes her head. “That doesn’t make it okay.”
            “I know.” You feel the muscles in your face contract as you try to fight off the pain. “Look, if you want me to go, just say it.”
            “You know I could never do that,” she says. “Our parents would never forgive me.”
            You glance over at your father and then back at your sister. “I’ll deal with them. Seriously, if you want me to leave, just tell me and I’ll go.”
            You and Gracie look at each other. The twenty-two years of your relationship bend between you. Then she says it. “Okay. I want you to leave.”
            You were expecting it as much as you weren’t. You nod once and feel the vomit rise in your throat again. “Okay,” you say. “I love you, Gracie.”
            You turn and walk out of the restaurant. Not one person in your family tries to stop you. 

A Body With Holes In It

This rage isn’t for me,
but it’s what I’m most comfortable with.
I can lie here and pretend to be okay
with your sleeping body,
but it’s hard when I can still hear
my voice
leaving my throat and bouncing off of

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Way Out

I’d dreamt of it a million times
in a myriad of different grasping ways,
but I’d never gotten that close before;
I’d never let my hand wade through the smoke,
palm up,
for anything that looked like help
(for you who looked like help).

The Songstress

            The first time you say something is always the hardest. Every time after that the impact is a little less. Press your body against the truth, and know that once it has passed through your lips you can no longer control it.
            It feels like pyramids will fall at the sound of these words; they won’t, I promise. They will crush everyone in the room around you, but people are resilient; they will pop back into place and go on ignoring the damage if you let them. You will learn that the sentences that float through your brain are less powerful than you ever could have imagined. They call you and seduce you, but no one else can even hear them.
            Whistle, my love. Whistle until the horses come back. Your conjuring of the past makes everyone uncomfortable; seep into it anyways. Let it fill you and move you and change the way you write. There’s nothing for us here, so let us build something new. We must start by knocking down walls and imagining the house we will live in someday.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hello, My Name is Panic Disorder

            She tried not to look disappointed when he walked into the coffee shop. Naomi wanted to be the type of person who didn’t judge people so automatically; she wanted to wait until they peeled themselves back before she made any decisions about their places in her life. Still, it was apparent that the picture he used on his profile was the best picture he had ever taken. Naomi swallowed and glanced down at the table. They hadn’t made eye contact yet. There was still time for her to slip out.
            But . . . What if that picture had captured something about him that he only let out in front of friends? What if this was the persona he pulled on when first meeting someone, if only to keep his guard up. Naomi could understand that. Maybe it wasn’t his physical features that she had been attracted to. Maybe he chose that picture for his profile because his true nature showed up in it, and she had recognized it. Maybe this was the moment that would change her life forever; that she could tell her children about years from now. She looked back up.
            She knew instinctively that his smile was more confident than hers. “Hi,” he said. “Are you Naomi?”
            She fixed the strap of her dress. “Yeah, hi, I am,” she said. She extended her hand, but then regretted it. Dates don’t shake hands. “Are you Tony?” He nodded and took her hand. “It’s so nice to meet you.”
            He ran his fingers through his messy brown hair. This drew Naomi’s eye and made her wonder if he had run a comb through the tangled locks before heading out. It didn’t seem like it. Then she kicked herself again for being judgmental.
            “Shall we?” she said, gesturing to the counter. He smiled and nodded and they walked the few feet to the register.
            They stood as if they had known each other for longer than thirty seconds; as if they had met up here on purpose. No, that was silly; of course they had met up here on purpose. Naomi scratched an itch on her face.
            “You’re getting coffee?” she said. “I’m not sure if I am. It’s kind of late.”
            “Oh no,” he said. “I don’t drink coffee.”
            Naomi paused. “So . . . why did you suggest we meet up for coffee?”
            He shrugged, a rough and nervous gesture. “I don’t know. It seemed like the thing people do.”
            She nodded, although she didn’t admire his lack of creativity. He ordered a blueberry muffin and she got hot chocolate. What had felt like an extremely grown-up coffee date suddenly fell back into the eighth grade. Their order came out and they went to sit down at the nearest table. An awkward silence grew and shuddered between them.
            “So,” he said, grasping for anything, “tell me about your writing process.”
            “I, um, what?” she said. Naomi knew he was only asking because they had chatted about it online, but it wasn’t an easy question to answer. In fact, it was probably the most startling and conversation-stunting question he could have asked.
            “Your writing process or, you know, what you like to write about,” he smiled and shrugged reassuringly.
            “Um, well, you know, it’s like how I tried to explain it before. And if I can’t explain it via written words, then I don’t think I’m going to do much better with speaking.” Tony pulled off a piece of muffin and popped it into his mouth. “But, um, I don’t know, I guess you could say I write contemporary fiction.” He raised his eyebrows. “Which sounds super pretentious, I know, but it’s kind of the easiest blanket term I can use. Um, I don’t know . . . I like to write about people and . . . how they got to be how they are?”
            He did not look impressed, and Naomi didn’t blame him. She let the end of her sentence sit on the air for a moment. Then he said, “So like . . . what’s the last thing you wrote about?”
            “The last thing . . .?” she said. It occurred to her that he must be thinking she was very stupid.
            “Yeah, like the last thing you’re proud of yourself for writing. What was the plot?”
            Naomi could see her fingers shake as she reached for her hot chocolate. “Well, the last big thing I worked on was a novel.”
            His eyes finally lit up. “A novel!” he said. “That’s so cool! What was it about?”
            She looked away and watched the two girls sitting at the table next to them. They were staring intently at their computers, but their faces were set in relaxed concentration. Naomi felt the overwhelming desire to switch places with them run through her. Then she snapped back. “It was about rape culture,” she said. “I wrote a novel about rape culture.”
            He blinked. “I’m sorry, what culture did you say?” he said.
            “Um, rape,” she said. “You know, when victims are blamed for their own assault and rapists are rarely punished what they’ve done. And when aspects of rape are woven into the everyday media we consume” She nodded as though enthusiasm might help her out.
            “Um, that’s really cool,” he said, although his face had gone pale. “You know, that you wrote a novel, not . . . rape culture.”
            “Yep,” she said, and nodded some more.
            “So . . . are you really involved in . . . thinking about things like that?” Tony said.
            “I read a lot of feminist blogs,” she said. “So probably more than the normal person, but not like . . . an abnormal amount.”
            “Well, you wrote a novel about it, though,” he said. He ran his fingers through his hair again. This nervous gesture made Naomi feel a little better. Maybe he was worrying more about what he was saying than the fact that she had mentioned rape and feminism within fifteen minutes of meeting him. “So if you read a lot of feminist blogs . . . what did you think about Emma Watson’s ‘He for She’ speech?”
            It was a good question, and he was clearly reaching for a subject that he thought she would be interested in. The problem was, she had never gotten around to actually watching the speech. “I, um, I think it was good,” she said, wanting to die. “I think it was super necessary, for, you know . . .” This was not the best time to find out how bad she was at bullshitting her way through a conversation.
            He looked at her. Then he looked at the empty muffin wrapper in front of him. “Look . . .” he said, “do you want to maybe go on a walk around the area. You can lead the way, since you know it better. I just think . . . it might be more comfortable for both of us.”
            Relief flooded through Naomi. “Yes,” she said, “I really, really want to do that.”
            They got outside and Naomi pulled her sweater on. She pointed down the sidewalk and they fell into a comfortable walking pace. Naomi started to relax for the first time that night. They began chatting about school and what he had been up to post-graduation.
            Then he interrupted himself. “So . . . I have to ask: why online dating?”
            She shrugged. “I don’t know, why are you online dating?”
            Tony smiled. “I asked you first.”
            Her shoulder raised ever-so-slightly and she said, “I don’t know. It’s hard to meet people in person these days.”
            He nodded. “That’s true,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t know how people find each other without dating websites.”
            “Yeah,” she said, and felt the gap in the conversation opening up in front of her. All she had to do was fall into it. So she did. “And meeting people is especially difficult when you have panic disorder.”
            Naomi didn’t know if this was the right way to say it. The casual tone of her voice said there was nothing unusual about the sentence she had just uttered, but they both knew that wasn’t true. She felt stressed and scared and . . . somewhat freed by having told a complete stranger about her mental illness.
            “Panic disorder . . .” he said. “Like you have panic attacks when you see, like, train tracks or something?”
            “Um, yeah, I mean, not train tracks. But yeah, occasionally I’ll be triggered by something random like that and have a panic attack. It’s not a big deal, though,” she added, although it really, really was.
            Another silent moment passed between them. “One of my friends has panic attacks when she sees train tracks,” he said.
            “Oh really?” she said, unsure how she was supposed to respond.
            “Yeah,” he said. “Because, um, one of our friends . . . killed herself by throwing herself in front of a train.”
            “Oh,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”
            He nodded absently. “We all went on college tours together before she died.”
            “Oh, that’s so horrible,” she said.
            He nodded again. They walked in silence for a few minutes. “Anyways,” he said, “I know this isn’t really first date conversation, but . . .”
            “It’s okay,” she said. “We grew up in the same area. I’m pretty sure everyone is connected to the train suicides in some way at this point.”
            The implications of her statement hung in the air between them. Then the conversation rolled on. Never one for small talk, Naomi chatted on and on about the gentrification of the area, the faulty school policies that let victims of assault down, and how hard it was to explore the city beyond her side of town. For his part, Tony listened and passionately contributed until Naomi stopped feeling embarrassed about the way she was expressing herself. Although she knew she would have trouble conveying the tone of the date when she retold it to her roommates, Naomi reveled in the strange, dark, and stimulating turn the night had taken.
            When it got late, they started walking back towards his car. Naomi lived nearby and could easily walk home. She would have to skirt a few of the darker sidewalks and keep her eyes open, but it was doable. Besides, she knew all the security guards who were working in the area. So when Tony offered to walk with her, Naomi was quick to respond that, thanks, but she could take care of herself. She didn’t add that she wasn’t comfortable with someone who was still basically an internet stranger knowing where she lived.
            They got to his silver car, and he stepped towards it. This sudden distance between them rebuilt the tension that had dissipated when they had left the coffee shop. Tony looked at her, and Naomi suddenly realized how much she had shared with him, this person she barely knew. She felt stripped naked in a way she did not like and, more than anything, she wanted to get away.
            “Well, this is me,” he said, gesturing to his car.
            “Okay,” she said, “well, it was nice meeting you.”
            He nodded. “Yes, uh, you, too.”
            They stood there, staring at each other. Both wanted to say something about the conversation they had had, or acknowledge how weird the night had been. Did they want to do this again? Suddenly the words were too difficult to slip out.
            “Well, goodnight,” Naomi said. “Have a safe drive back.”
            “You, too,” he said. “Um, have a safe walk back.”
            “Alright,” she said, and turned away. She made it down the street and around the corner before she thought about this last interaction. It was clumsier than she had wanted, but then that was kind of appropriate for the date they had had. Naomi’s thoughts rested on the possibility of dating someone that knew about her panic disorder from the start. What a relief it would be to escape the dread of having to tell him about it later, of having to betray him by telling a lie by omission.
            Her last relationship had been irreparably damaged by this sin. Naomi had committed the fatal error of waiting past the point of when she realized she really liked the guy. She had waited until she was standing in line with him. He took off his sunglasses and looked at her and she realized, Oh shit, I really do like you. I am in some serious trouble. The impact of this thought coupled with a morning’s worth of poor self-care led her spiraling into a panic attack. Before they had gotten halfway through their food, Naomi’s throat started to close and she said she needed to leave. On the way out of the restaurant, she had haltingly explained the reality of her situation. He had taken it all as a matter of course and took her home, but this moment existed between them for the rest of their relationship. It existed when they drove home together on their next date, and it existed when, out of nowhere, he asked her if he had done anything to set off the panic. She had left out such a vital part of herself when they first met and explained who they were to each other, and this was a mistake from which it was had been too difficult to recover.
            So what if she could avoid that now? What if she had put her hands on her own narrative and shoved it in the direction she wanted? And if he wanted to see her again, that would mean something else. It would mean she was attractive beyond her illness, an idea that she had never before considered.
            But the end of their date still lingered in her mind. A gust of wind pierced through her sweater as she darted around a corner past a sketchy deli. Naomi tucked her hands into her armpits and put her head down. No matter how easily conversation eventually came between them, Tony would have that final discomfort rattling through his mind all the way home; he would have the knowledge that she now knew things about him that she shouldn’t know after a first date. The boundary of intimacy had been crossed too many times, and Naomi felt instinctually that she would never see him again.
            This fact rested on the back of her eyes and the back of her tongue. She wanted to spit it out or swallow and digest it, but it seemed too important for either of those responses. This person, this interaction, they weren’t what she wanted, but they were much closer than she had ever gotten before. Naomi wanted what everybody else did: the closeness of another human being that saw and understood her, and still wanted to be with her anyway.
            Naomi crossed the street and hopped up onto the curb. Despite having had an alternately horrible, confusing, and dark evening, she felt like things were starting to get better.

Destruct-o Girl

            I sip whiskey from a champagne glass with one eye still on the horizon. These walls have never been big enough to contain me; this country has never been big enough to contain me. I’m brave and ambitious and yet cower in fear at the sound of an airplane engine. I can see the world fall at my feet even as it crowds into my mind and makes me want to hide beneath a kitchen table. I’m sick of the dark, sick of this ache in my lower back; I’m sick of all of it and yet embrace it like my disappeared lover. No one would return to this place if there wasn’t something calling us back.
           The temptation drips down the back of my throat and I choke on it. “My love,” it says, “stay with me and watch as the tide comes in. I promise it will be worth it.” These words echo in the back of my head and I feel them in my spine. I want to make them real; make them part of me. But . . . they’re not. They’re no more a part of me than the dead cells rooted in my scalp. I shed them like an old sweater and continue walking. Even though it feels like my organs are collapsing in on themselves, I’ve no use for a second thought. These dreams have crafted me and led me here. I will follow them lovingly until my knees give out.