It’s Only Temporary

“How long will he be gone?” I ask. Across the satellite towers and invisible phone lines, my friend types a message back.

“Seven months.” Continue reading

We Can’t Give Up On Love

My friend tells me a story about the girl he likes. He’s angry, talking fast, stumbling over his words and I fight the urge to look out the window behind him, watch the sunset paint its pastel colors across the sky.

It’s not that I don’t care—I do. I just find it hard to watch people transition from filled with love, to suddenly removed. It’s hard to wrap my head around the idea that people are guarded, or afraid of falling, or can quickly turn their backs the second someone hesitates, or questions, or changes.

He’s flailing his arms wildly, going on about how she told him she liked him and then pulled away. I get it. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there—watching the person we like shift before our eyes. It’s not necessarily our faults when something like this happens, but it’s not necessarily theirs either.

Love is a scary, beautiful thing and sometimes we’re just not ready for it. Sometimes we think we want to be with someone, when the truth is we’re still searching for ourselves. Continue reading

Across Phone Lines And State Lines

Dabbled with some fiction writing this morning. Here’s a short piece on two lovers facing the complications of long distance.

“I want this,” he said. His voice was steady; it reminded Madeline of a river, stable and consistent. There was a large river behind the house where she grew up, the current always flowing downstream to the dam. She used to throw pebbles across the smooth surface in the morning, watch the ripples dance in the dim light of sunrise.

“I do too,” she whispered.

Her voice, on the other hand, was thin, something like a mouse or a feather, she thought. Something that could sway in the wind, never rooted to one place.

There was silence on the other line. She wondered if he believed her words as truth, even when they were spoken in such contrast to his own. She closed her eyes, took a long deep breath, blowing air into the receiver. One thousand miles away, her fiancé, Zac, did the same. One long exhale to cross all the miles between them.

Madeline imagined the soft curve of his lips, the scruffy beard he’d been trying to grow the last few months in an effort to look older among his tenured coworkers. On a whim, he had taken a teaching program at a prep school in Louisiana, a school so desperate for teachers the salary couldn’t be passed up. He left, really without question. One night they were walking down the cobblestone on South Ann, pretending to be tourists in their own town, and suddenly he turned to her, grabbed her face with both his hands and kissed her hard on the mouth.

“I love you, I want this,” he said, his words echoing the ones he shared just moments ago. In a flurry, he had gotten down on one knee, a simple diamond ring in a red velvet box in his hand.

“Please say you want this, too.” Continue reading

The Transience of Home

Salveson Prize in Prose 2015.

Published in the Waldorf Literary Review.

“We’re just like Skins,” I say, reaching a bare arm towards the falling snowflakes.

It is a typical Saturday morning in mid-December. The sky is white. The ground is white. My arms are linked with three of my closest friends; we are all in different stages of our hangovers. Kevin’s Metallica T-shirt is ripped along the bottom seam, and he’s wearing faded beige moccasins with a hole at the left pinky toe. Jaclyn’s eyes are red, a thin California sweater covering her braless chest. Haleigh has on her skirt and tights from the party, the smell of tequila and lime thick in her hair. And I am in a flowing black tank top and leggings, skipping to keep warm, catching snowflakes on my tongue.

“Wait, the TV show?” Haleigh asks, “The one with those British kids?”

Kevin and I exchange smirks. He nods, laughs. He’s the one that first introduced me to Skins, his current favorite series on Netflix, only slightly behind Friday Night Lights and Prison Break. Skins is a show about teenagers, about drugs, about drinking, about partying, about reckless mistakes and being young. I’ve only watched a few episodes but the storyline captivates me. Those characters live with abandon. The girls are dangerous, sexy. And they each live without fear or regrets, just laughter and risk-taking.

“No, guys, this is totally Skins!” I say again, surveying the quiet streets, only a few cars gliding silently past us. In the opening episode of the show, a girl walks home on a school-day morning. The roads are deserted, not a person in sight. The girl’s obviously hung over as hell, stumbling across the road. Her hair is a mess, lipstick blurred across her lips, dress ripped, heels in hand, bare feet on the slushy asphalt. She’s disheveled and doing a classic ‘walk-of-shame,’ but for some reason I found myself attracted to her, to her disregard for anything other than fun. She seemed so free. Continue reading

A Good Story Is A Worm-Stick

“A good story is a worm-stick,” my professor says.

We are sitting in his office, a room with white walls, one window, and a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf just to the right of me. I’m studying the spines of books—every shade of blue, maroon, green, grey, brown, burnt orange.

“What’s a worm stick?” I laugh. A strand of brown hair falls in front of my eyes and I push it behind my ear.

My professor shifts his chair back from his desk and turns to face me. He’s wearing his usual dress pants, shiny black shoes, and striped polo shirt. His hair is black, sprinkled with grey. His mouth and cheeks have laugh-lines.

“Picture a rainy day,” he says, “The worms all come up from the ground and cover the sidewalk.”

I glance out the window. Outside, it is a beautiful fall day. The leaves are crisp and yellowy-orange. The sun is glinting through them, casting leaf-shaped shadows his desk.

“Your story is like these worms, all spread out on a stick. The worms are the plot points of the story.”

His face is animated and bright as he tells me this. His hands gesture in the air giving me the image of this rained-on stick, these plump, brownish-pink worms finding their place along the slick bark.

“The worms are the plot points, the moments of the story. And your story becomes all of these moments strung together, not in order necessarily, but all of importance to what you’re story is actually about.” Continue reading

Dependability

She’s thinking of a particular day, that snowstorm, a Saturday. She had woken to his alarm, then drifted back into a dream again. That dream she always had about clear, blue skies and the Rocky Mountains, though she’d never been. When he had leaned over to kiss her cheek she had woke, smiling. The best way to start the day. And while he had dressed and brushed his teeth, she had laid there, eyes closed, and listened to the sounds. The tap of the toothbrush on the side of the sink, the swish of the water around the drain, the brush of deodorant–familiar sounds. She had heard his steps across the living room, the loud slam of the door. That door was one of the many flaws of that apartment, always having to slam to close. So she had waited quietly there, in the moments between daydream and fully awake. And after he was gone, she had opened her eyes, stretched across the warm spot he had left on his side of the bed. Continue reading

I Know Just What You Need

Rachael pressed her nose against the outside of the soft oak door and sighed. She could smell a dirty diaper from a mile away. Inside the room, Malorie was making a combination of cooing and crying sounds. ‘Self-soothing,’ Malorie’s mother had called it, but it made Rachael feel on edge. She wasn’t one hundred percent sure when to enter the room to change Malorie, or if this was one of those, ‘just let her calm on her own’ moments. Rachael took a quiet step back from the door and held her breath. Silence. A loose strand of blonde hair fell from her pony tail. She tucked it behind her ear. This was week seven of her part-time summer nanny position. She didn’t hate it, but it definitely made her feel reluctant about having kids, which was something her boyfriend, James, was very excited about.

Rachael took another tentative step backwards and bristled as the floor creaked. Malorie hiccupped. Rachael glanced at her watch. It was a quarter to nine, right on schedule. Zelda, Malorie’s mother, wanted her down at nine and then again at noon. It seemed like a strange schedule, but Rachael didn’t mind. It gave her an hour or so to catch up on summer homework, which she had fallen behind on.

Rachael shut her eyes and listened for any sounds. She was too far to hear the baby’s breathing, but if she was quiet enough, she could sometimes hear Malorie sucking on her pacifier–one of those ‘self-soothing’ tricks Zelda had mentioned. Everything was quiet. Rachael backed away from the door and slowly headed down the stairs.
Continue reading

The Snow Day

The girl was angry. Angry, but unsure of the true reason why. She was sitting in her mother’s black Lexus, watching the men and women in knee-length coats and flowing scarves walk in and out of the grocery store entrance. These men and women, all bundled up, annoyed her. They all seemed so determined, so happy, so focused. They had braved the negative temperatures for simple pleasures. The young couple, arms interlocked and two cars to the left, carried a bottle of wine between them. Perhaps to toast to the snow day off of work. Maybe they would wrap under blankets and watch a romantic movie together, glasses refilling until the bottle was empty. Continue reading