The night before I checked myself into the hospital, I told my brother that I only had two episodes of the third season of House left to watch, and that once they were over, I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. He can’t be blamed for thinking I was exaggerating.

Christmas stories have pretty morals – things like “Giving is important” or “Family comes first” or “Maybe snoop through your husband’s closet a little to find out what he got you before you up and cut off all your hair” or “If you don’t want the inside of your hotel to be covered in placenta and overrun with shepherds, go ahead and tell that nice pregnant lady that you’re all booked up.” This is a story about Christmas, but its moral is much murkier.

 

Over the past few years, I’d read great and magical things about The Nervous Breakdown Literary Experience in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and sundry other burgs. I scrolled through photos and comments generated by each reading and thought, Holy hell, that looks tastier than pizza. Each city fielded a deeply talented roster and the sense of excitement and cohesion was palpable. I looked forward to Seattle’s shot.

 

Alex

By Lauren Hoffman

Essay

Twenty-four hours ago, a police officer in Seattle shot and killed a man who was holding or brandishing or whittling with a three-inch knife and didn’t drop it when told. It’s clear that the story is only going to become more and more tragic as its details continue to come to light, but I can’t bring myself to try to understand what exactly happened yet. I’m not finished feeling relieved about what didn’t. The man with the knife wasn’t Alex.

Bed

By Lauren Hoffman

Essay

I.

I talked before I walked. My mother says I did this in order to boss around anyone willing to listen. No one was, really, except my older brother. We shared a bedroom then, and I’d sit in my crib, asking, “Bring me? Bring me?” He’d drop in a book, or my blanket, or a handful of Duplo blocks, or all of the nickels from his toy cash register.