Writing

The Living Room

I avoided the living room when I could, pristine white carpet stretching under straight-back furniture, breakable family heirlooms in every direction – the pocket watch my Great-Grandpa brought over from Switzerland and the faded black-and-white picture taken before my Great-Grandma left Austria – she and her parents and her nine siblings, all in their Sunday best, not a single smile in the bunch.

But for thirty minutes every evening, I was held hostage, shackled to the centerpiece of the living room, the antique upright piano my parents had seen advertised in the newspaper and purchased with the doomed hope that I might turn out to be a protégée concert pianist. I hated that beautiful piano, intricate floral carvings and real ivory keys, piled with the sheet music my fingers refused to learn, and topped with a taskmaster metronome.

Continue reading

Advertisements
Standard
Writing

All Wrong

His mouth was all wrong. 

Everything was wrong . Sallow skin and sunken cheeks.  Over-slicked hair and the box he was lying in. But nothing was more wrong than his mouth, which had always, always greeted me with a grin, now severe and unforgiving, forever set by the mortician in a hard, unnatural line. 

The funeral director was asking if we wanted him buried with his wedding ring – and did we want to donate his glasses?  The slideshow was playing for the third time through and my most treasured childhood memories were on display, bizarrely accompanied by violins and kitchy lyrics. Visitors were telling me that I looked just like my mom and they were sorry for my loss. I would feel better in a month or so and we would see him again in heaven and 90 years is plenty long enough to have lived on earth, anyway.

“The things people say,” hissed my cousin, scowling beside me in the reception line.  “Death makes people stupid.”

Continue reading

Standard
Writing

Contact

His fingers graze your knee like a side conversation as he talks about Vonnegut like he’s the first person to ever talk about Vonnegut and asks, with all the disarming sincerity in the world, if you consider yourself a feminist. You wonder when everyone in your life stopped talking like this – not that anyone in your life ever talked exactly like this – like “cheers – eye contact” and “what are you looking for?” and “are you happy?” – with exactly this mix of eager and guileless and curious and warm. It’s the way he offers his arm before the second round of whiskey that gets you. Or maybe it’s the way he grabs your hand after the third, as if, yes, of course, you must be touching, of course, you must share liquor-fueled kisses in shadowy doorways up and down Milwaukee Avenue. MacCallan on your lips as your make your escape like you can take or leave it. But you can’t quite forget the taste. Contact. You want it.  You want his fingers in your hair and his mouth on your neck.  You want skin on skin. But you’d settle for a text.

Standard
Writing

Red

She still dreams in red. Poppy strewn ditches and forests turned scarlet by autumn leaves. Rust covered bridges under a flaming moon.  Red candy apples and red rosa plums stretching beyond the horizon, orchards upon orchards of red. A string of garnets at her neck and nails painted a deep, gleaming cherry. Flashes of lighting like fire and bright vermilion clouds, bursting with liquid crimson. First just a drizzle and then a downpour. She watches transfixed as the red rain floods the ground and drenches her hair and soaks her skin. It all bleeds together; blood everywhere. She still wakes up in the middle of the night with muscles coiled, ready to spring.

Standard
Writing

Becca

Becca didn’t believe in heaven.

They talked about it once, on a lazy summer afternoon when their biggest problems were jet lag and an empty pitcher of Thai-Basil Sangria. It started as a conversation to pass the time between dips in the pool; empty words to fill empty space. She was flipping through a magazine and Kyle was undressing her with his eyes.

“If I believed in heaven,” she sighed, ”I would think this was it.”

Heaven for Becca, then, would be a two star, all inclusive resort in Mexico on a hot but shady day with a copy of Elle in her hands and Kyle lying inches away, unable to keep his hands off of her.

Continue reading

Standard