Still With Her

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img_0964To say that the past week has been difficult is the understatement of the year. Likening the election results to the death of a loved one is an apt comparison. Although still present in their flesh, I mourn the loss of many in my own family, the divide between us becoming too large, ugly, and unwieldy to ignore.

Even before the election, around the time of the leaked tape, on which an individual supported by the Russians to overtake our government was heard claiming liberty to grab women by the pussy, I started to feel long crusted-over wounds again become raw.

Like many others expressed around this time, I have countless stories of experiencing sexual assault and abuse of power by men. Too many to cover here, so I’ll stick to three.

I’m forty-five years old and one incident in particular is seared in memory, many details intact. So vivid are the sounds, smells, sensations of parts of this incident that I find myself peering into my memory like I’m watching it through a window, wanting to bang my fists against the thick glass and cry out to my four-year-old self and implore her not to follow him, my supposed godfather, to the front of the house opposite ours, our two backyards facing across the narrow alleyway. To go back to the comfort of the picnic. But she can’t hear me, so she walks on, her small hands clutching the too-thin paper plate, already collapsing under the weight of its hotdog and corn-on-the-cob.

As she settles onto the porch, little more than a square concrete platform with steps descending off either side, she can feel the roughness of the surface scratching the backs of her thighs. He takes a seat beside her. For a few minutes, the two sit there in silence, eating from the plates on their laps. She can hear the reverie behind her: her mother’s laughter, the faint sounds of the stereo, a dog barking at the end of the block. Her own house is so close, and yet here, on the front porch of the house across the alleyway, it is quiet. No one else is around.

Just as she is noticing this, her godfather leans over, presses his mouth—which smells of beer— against her ear and says, “I could snap your neck right now and no one would ever know.”

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4AM Fiction: In Her Sixth Year

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d1a1c5e8040d7e35_7820-w500-h666-b0-p0--traditional-landscapeEditor’s Note: The following is very loosely based on autobiographical events. It’s what happens when you wake up and can’t go back to sleep. It’s a writer’s curse, I suppose. I guess I can thank My Muse. And just so we’re clear, this is fiction inspired by actual events, not some coded message about my health. 

She awoke from the dream with a start. One breath before, The Mother had been standing at the edge of the garden, its ivy-covered stone walls curving inward on either side like cupped hands. In the dream, she and Eldest Daughter had been in deep conversation at the garden’s entrance (or its exit, depending on your perspective) when Littlest Daughter, who was standing beside her bed, crying, awakened her.

The Parents’ Bed was reserved primarily for The Parents; however, whenever one of The Children had had an unfortunate dream or was otherwise unsettled, The Parents permitted whomever arrived first to settle into the space between them. The Mother glanced behind her to find that space now occupied by The Son, and recalled that earlier in the evening he had crawled up and over her, so lightly that she had barely even noticed. Continue reading »

Spoiled By Springsteen

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44891_10151371661141457_1238195171_nMy husband and I both grew up at the Jersey Shore, both on barrier islands. I in Ocean City (Exit 25) and he in Chadwick Beach (Exit 82). It’s not much of a surprise, then, that we ended up living in Alameda, an Island City off the coast of Oakland. The need to be surrounded by water is just in our DNA.

A strong desire to live near the beach isn’t the only genetic imprinting that happens when one grows up at The Jersey Shore. There are other predispositions: abiding love for soft pretzels, boardwalks, and soft serve; memories of horseshoe crabs (in decline now due to pollution), jellyfish, and sand crabs; and perhaps the most deeply rooted of all, an almost reverent devotion to the music of Bruce Springsteen.

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I didn’t become a complete devotee until I was in my 20s. It was 1995 and my then-boyfriend and I packed up our yellow Ryder truck and set out from the dead-end street near his parents’ home on our move to San Francisco. Fittingly, Thunder Road played as our wheels took us slowly away from the place we’d known all our lives. Following The Boss’s command: We were getting out while we were young.
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We’ ll Always Have Paris

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Hundreds of environmentalists arrange their bodies to form a message of hope and peace in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, December 6, 2015, as the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) continues at Le Bourget near the French capital. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier - RTX1XF6Y

Hundreds of environmentalists arrange their bodies to form a message of hope and peace in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, December 6, 2015, as the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) continues at Le Bourget near the French capital. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier – RTX1XF6Y

Editor’s Note: This piece was written in three separate settings, which accounts for the lapses in time and space. 

My family and I are scheduled to fly to Paris in a week. It’s a trip we’ve been looking forward to for months. Imagining ourselves strolling down the narrow cobblestone streets, pausing to enjoy a croissant and cafe at one of Paris’ ubiquitous and adorable bistros; walking along the banks of the Seine, visiting the Louvre; wandering the stalls in the expansive flea markets in search of antique treasures…has been an all-consuming pastime since we decided to go.

And then the events of last Friday night unfolded. I was in a meeting when I received an email from my brother-in-law that simply read, “Tragic news coming out of Paris right now…”. He didn’t go into details, and I couldn’t respond in the middle of my meeting, so it was hours before I understood fully what had happened.

Readers who don’t know me well (and even some who do) might be surprised to learn that I secretly call myself Worst-Case Scenario Girl. Why? Because if there is even a whiff of danger afoot, my mind immediately goes to the, you guessed it, worst-case scenario. It seems my new pastime was imagining all the terrible things that could—and in my mind definitely would—go wrong in Paris.
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Doing It For Themselves

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adultraisebookWe’re midway through our summer vacation and the word “bored” has come up countless times already. For a generation of kids that has summer camp choices out the wazoo, I say, “you don’t know what being bored looks like!”

Perhaps by virtue of growing up at the beach, or by being raised in a family without bucketloads of disposable income, my friends and I learned how to occupy our time in the summer without intervention from our parents. If we dared to utter the “b” word, our parents would open the screen door and tell us not to get hit by it on our way outside. They didn’t arrange playdates for us before kicking us into the outdoors, either. And we certainly didn’t have to wonder if any of our friends would be “available”. We just walked (or biked —  gasp —by ourselves) around the neighborhood picking up friends along the way. We made our own fun. And it was fun.   Continue reading »