“I suicide, I suicide!” he cried out, en pointe, as if strung up by an invisible rope lashed to a rafter in the heaven of the homeless shelter. His hands collared his strangulated neck, a frill of starched fingers...
Big band music makes her think of gin, makes her drink the gin, makes her wonder if this state is a cliché like bitterness or a human condition like sadness. But she realizes the label doesn’t matter because it is within her and others like her, and there is no sense in denying that, because what is the point of humanity if we do not share the simple common expression of sadness sometimes only discovered through alcohol? In this case it is her bottle of Aviation gin, cool and sleek with its art deco design, housed so well between the bag of frozen peas and a pint of vanilla ice cream.
If New York is the city that never sleeps, Beirut is the city that never stops smoking. The scent is everywhere—fragrant, like the flavored argileh emitted from the hookahs in cafes and bars, or ashy, like the Winstons, Marlboros, and Cedars that droop from the mouths of shopkeepers and cabbies and are waved like sabers when conversations get hot...
There's a section of New York State, on the eastern border of Lake Ontario, where the town names make you feel like you've gone around the world.
I read the names out loud to my two-year-old daughter—Mexico, Syracuse, Rome, Poland—as I watch the snow swirl around the dark streets outside the bus windows. We are traveling from Gouverneur, New York to Everett, Massachusetts. It is my daughter's first Greyhound bus ride, and it is my first time returning home after running away from my abusive ex-husband.
It begins with a deep brown Alaskan lake lined with thick, silky muck. A spindly forest of spruce, willow, and alder. A swamp of bog blueberry, cinquefoil, cotton grass, and aromatic Labrador tea. Mosquitos, fierce and dense. Trout and salmon. Loons, ducks, grebes, gulls. Beaver, muskrat, moose, and bears. Berries. Once a place of fish camps and villages, hunters and trappers. Once a place of plenty.
On a map, lines are drawn, long thin rectangles, each with a slice of ragged lakeshore. Little boxes of land, sold at a tidy profit. One goes to my father.
The soup smell, the weeds, the dim heat. He lived there with his sickly mother, who was chronically bed-ridden. Sometimes I doubted whether she was real or not; she never made a sound, never emerged. Supposedly she was dying.
As the clacking train slows to a stop, the grating door of the fourth car opens to reveal the tightly packed innards where people of all colors sit in coveted seats or else stand in the thin passage so those disembarking are forced to brusquely push through. At the sound of the steel door, the woman flicks open her eyes, fluttering her lids, then darting her irises this way and that before settling them on me.
In sickness and in health, the marriage of your body to yourself, forever. The body does not believe in divorce. Put your soft body inside metal bodies like cars and trains and airplanes, take your body to the beach and burn it brown with oil. Bleach your teeth. Dye your hair. Ornament the flesh with ink pulled from the roots of plants. Drown it in boxed red wine you’ll throw up in your friend’s bathtub. Look at pictures of yourself as a child and reminisce about eating paper, how your body absorbed it all without flinching. Remember swallowing gum. Swallowing communion wafers. Wonder if the remnants of Christ’s body still line your stomach as protective coating against future fuck ups—holy antacids against the acid reflux of sin.