flgcy_main01

In the box where I keep this story, the woman in the doorway of the hotel room was tall and blonde. She had swept-back bangs in the process of growing out. At 2 a.m., the Flagstaff air was crispy outside. Jacket-weather already. Winter was on deck with its frost threat. Besides the front desk staff I passed on the way to the room and this blonde woman who was in my way, I hadn’t seen another person since I’d arrived. Most people were done for the night. I stood in front of room 234 of a Courtyard by Marriot waiting to be validated.

I was 20-years-old, and believed in terrible things. I thought Savage Garden made some pretty good music. Folgers made some pretty good coffee. And Drew loved me. Love, like lust-love, like he needed me in the middle of the night because the middle of the night is when you truly realize what you want, like it was crazy but understandable how he’d always burned or bit his tongue and that’s why he couldn’t ever kiss me.

“Drew is sick,” this woman said.

Not sick-sick. Drunk-sick. Curled in a ball while his body expressed poison. The metamorphosis. Toxic to non-toxic.

“He called me,” I said in the key of I don’t know who I am, my voice rising in pitch.

IMG_4897

 

When I meet the father of my children, he is muscled and brown-skinned with freckled shoulders from swimming in the ocean in the midday California sun. I am a protozoan. Soft and open. Absorbing everything. When I change, we change. This pattern will repeat. By the time our children are born, my husband is shaped like the Buddha. I don’t mind the change in his shape. He doesn’t mind the change in mine. There are other things that will come between us and end us, but the shape of our bodies is inconsequential. Later there would come the confusion of how my body would be regarded as it aged, what my shape would telegraph to the next person who loved me. When our marriage ends, I am lean and shrewd. An apex predator.

Bed2

Originally I’d bought the bed for another girlfriend, the one before C. She’d insisted I get a king-size, one with enough space to guarantee a good night’s sleep, one where she could lay on her back, her arms crossed over her chest in a death pose, insurance against my slow creeping during the night to slide my hand under her pillow, happy to feel the weight of her head through down and feather. I slept on the right side (as I do now with C.), the side nearest the bathroom, my path a sliver of wood floor and wall, the same tightrope walk I still make now in the dark, the wall to steady me as I negotiate dog-in-dog-bed, bench, rug, dresser, and door. Most nights I arrive at the bathroom unscathed, but others produce bruised ankles, calves, and tails. The bed is too big for the room, no question; the bed has been too big for every room.

In part, I am to blame. I chose an Eastern king, a choice only Californians must make when sizing up from a queen. The California king is a longer (+4”) and narrower (-4”) bed than its Eastern counterpart, an implication we’re taller and skinnier here in the Golden state. More likely, it’s a product of our constant need to be original. I explained the difference to my girlfriend, the one before C., rattling the tape measurer across the room so she could appreciate the extra width I was willing to sacrifice. She waved me off and told me it was my bedroom, my house, so I should be the one to decide.

But the bed’s size wasn’t my girlfriend’s only complaint. Noises, even small ones, would wake her. She would sit up, put in her earplugs, and announce she was signing off for the night. I waited until then to tell her things I was too scared to say when she could hear me. Once, just as she was falling asleep, I whispered, I’ve been praying that you’ll stay. Her eyelids flickered, and for a moment I thought she’d heard me.

mount rainier TNBWhen I first read drafts of your book, you were still thinking of a title. Rollercoaster. “Terrible title,” you said. Dyke Aching. You sent it through Google Docs and I chatted with you. After a break, you were writing again and it was feeling good, raw. New.

Sometimes when we talk it’s like neurons synapsing – we’re going through texts, emails, voice messages, Skype, Google Docs.

“Love it. I love when Finn says ‘I’m a small little animal?’”

“Here’s a link to this John Prine song.”

“I’m drinking a beer with my melatonin.”

“I so suck at letting things go.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 2.12.29 PM

i.

This is not an instance of communication breakdown but an example of wounded pride. I am the type of vengeful, petty wraith who is at her most compelling when she’s scorned, a shiny new convert to the scorched earth policy. You think that the act of writing is an easy, thoughtless pastime, a hobby that does not require the fried mechanics of an exhausted, Möbius strip imagination and fraying patience. You think that the act of writing is an exercise in the ego’s masturbatory need for proof of life, the unquenchable hunger for outside validation. You think that the act of writing is a symptom of a space-bound dreamer, that the process of reading and comprehending literature in order to form a cultural dialogue is as fruitless as shouting in an empty, padded room.

You fail to realize that I am writing for my life.

Grown-Up Words

By Bethany Cox

Essay

blackboard-thinking-of-love

His name was Jeremiah and he was in my preschool class. He was five years old, tall for his age. His parents were divorced and he had an older brother, which meant he knew words like ass and hell. Once he accused me of saying the f word during story time.

“I said fox, Jeremiah.”

“It sure sounded like fuck,” he countered.

1.1299495934.the-famous-object-i-found-on-the-road-a-dildo

I was driving to Adelanto listening to some comedy radio show. There’s nothing in Adelanto. At least nothing anybody wants. Just a collection of old cracked streets and faded one-story businesses. The people on the radio show were asking the audience:  What would people find in your drawers if you died unexpectedly? Your closet? They weren’t interested in the collection of Christmas sweaters or the stacks of family albums—they were interested in the dirty things, the things you don’t want anybody to see or know about. The naked pictures. The sex toys. The raunchy.

If you like to read non-fiction by snarky, middle-aged male journalists, you’re likely already familiar with that particular twenty-first century character quirk in which Specialized Trivia is king of the castle. I’m talking about music and the people you know who rave about Teenage Fanclub bootlegs or Bob Dylan bootleg bootlegs and spare no scorn for FM Radio. I’m talking about Trekkies. I’m talking about film students and career comedians and collectors of many kinds. I’m even talking about sports fanatics, but I mean the kind who can spout off specific plays in specific games which specifically occurred in the year 1966. Really, I’m talking about pop culture at large, and the people who believe that one media above all others is either the most practical or the most worthwhile way to be a human in the world interacting with other humans. But, to distill: I’m not talking about everybody who just really likes some genre of something. I’m talking about those friends–and you know them, in your life–who will scarcely leave their own dork corner in a conversation, and may judge you inadvertently for not knowing as much about their Thing as they deem suitable. You know–insufferable snobs (IS’).

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.

What falls away is always. And is near.

 

At a resort spa in the mountains of southern Utah once, a woman I’d never met before named Betina told me I was tired of fighting.

She lay me down on a bed of furs and wrapped a blanket around me. She held crystals over my body and struck them. The sound was meant to be a healing vibration.

I don’t really buy into this stuff.

But earlier, when we sat facing each other, she told me to close my eyes and think of the person who held all my questions. She pulled a small stone buffalo from her basket of animal talisman and said, “Is this him?”

And it was.

There was a point in time when I thought that I could control the course of our relationship like some ego-inflated Hollywood director. Maybe it was the control I craved, more than the love. A chance to feel that I had power.

*

When I met you all those years ago, I was alight with the fires of a woman scorned, or rather, lingering in the final stage of metamorphosis, shedding the skin of that Bambi-eyed girl child who was eager to sell her heart to the cleverest con-artist. Once I had left the monotony of my hometown, I headed for the comfort of the city. I wandered through the newfound world of academia, a little wooden ship bobbing in the endless ocean, desperately waiting for a savior. I latched onto knowledge and avoided the popular past time of binge-drinking, though I would never turn down the sticky-sweet haze of pot. The inner chambers of my mind were limitless, but I struggled to tap into that reservoir; I thought that weed could serve as the key. By the time I moved off campus and into a cozy apartment near the central hive of Boston University, I still hadn’t gone on a date or had a boyfriend. This probably had to do with the fact that the unchecked depression that had been lingering in adolescence had come to fruition. I’d spent the rest of my time in Boston feeling miserable, at best feeling helpless, at worst feeling hopeless.

Our Waking Life

By Mag Gabbert

Essay

Ty and I were asleep. We were in my new apartment, the first place I’d ever lived in on my own. We’d gone to bed exhausted after a full day of moving my belongings from my grandmother’s house in Dallas to my new place in San Antonio, where I was about to begin my junior year of college. The apartment was still empty, but for a few stacks of boxes in the living room, a wicker trunk that was to serve as my coffee table, and a futon, laid flat in my room, that was to serve as my bed. I remember opening my own front door for the first time, the rushing smell of fresh paint and wood.

aida_8341At 3 a.m. on the morning before Independence Day, I drove six hours from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles on a mission to seduce my closest male friend. Nathan and I had been buddies in high school but drifted apart afterwards; it was only recently that we’d rekindled our connection. We’d spent the past year logging long hours in online conversations laced with a potent combo of flirty chemistry and neediness. Our chats were late-night confessionals on crushes, love, and sex; I was his virtual wing-girl. We were building a strong friendship too, but I knew I was falling for him when I wanted to stay up past midnight basking in the twin glows of my laptop screen and my newly minted role as Nathan’s confidante, instead of crawling into bed with my boyfriend of six years, who I lived with.

Feral

By Cris Mazza

Essay

A hole was needed. It was for a knot of day lily tubers removed from a garden at the other house. The ground was dry but not hard, loamy from decaying vegetation. Still, it was necessary at first to vault both feet off the ground and land, simultaneously, on the spade’s treads, in order to penetrate. The blade went through layers of moldering grass clippings, leaves, and valuable Illinois black soil. The hole was just about deep enough when the last shovelful unloaded 4 or 5 elongated eggs. One had been broken. Held in my palm, the leathery casing pulled aside, the soft nascent turtle shell was recognizable.

I do not own two houses, but I pay property taxes on two — live in the one with no mortgage and pay rent to support the mortgage, still in my name, on the one whose deed no longer includes me. A convoluted separation agreement not completed through an attorney or sanctioned by any court. I have full access to the 1.3 acre property where I no longer live. Full access to tend: to weed, prune, mulch, divide roots, till soil, and fertilize as needed. That bigger property will be put up for sale in a year or two, and its gardens have become overgrown, too bourgeoning (hence daunting) for potential buyers. I’ve been removing plants to pots, reviving and revitalizing them, then transporting to the new, more modest property.

I was seventeen when a new millennium reset the world. I started it by drinking a bottle of cinnamon-flavored liquor at my own New Year’s Eve party and passing out in my room, sleeping right through the ball drop. In the morning, my mother woke me with the dregs of the bottle in a shot glass, the sickly sweet, spicy fumes like smelling salts under my nose. She told me to drink the shot or get grounded for being an asshole. I drank the shot and slept the entire first day of the year 2000.

Campus sits west of the Chicago river, at the circle interchange of the Kennedy and Eisenhower expressways.  In the 60s UIC wedged its way into and consumed Chicago’s Little Italy, grew tentacles into the near west and south sides.  At one time called Circle Campus after the knot of concrete ramps where the two arteries bisect, it was built similarly of concrete in a style called Brutalism, emulating Soviet public housing, “riot proof,” with double-layer covered walkways akin to parking garages, an open-air amphitheater and massive concrete wheelchair ramps to 2nd floor entries reiterating the circle motif.  A miniature replica of an Eastern Bloc city, and likewise now with crumbling concrete, permanent scaffolding erected to protect students and faculty milling on (and off) grass lined footpaths under trees that replaced the severe web of covered walkways in the 90s.  The circular quad in front of 24-story University Hall underwent a decade-long project (that should’ve taken about a year) to add grassy knolls, flowered borders, and (perhaps a reminder of Brutalism) tile-lined fountains that rarely run because they’re broken.  But I walk campus without envy for Northwestern, University of Chicago, DePaul, or Loyola.  They have tradition, bigger trees, a vine-covered brick building probably called “Old Main.”  We have Brutalism.  It’s where part of me –  a native Californian – lives, has lived for almost 20 years.