More Than Ninety Days

[I wrote this on July 21, 2006, when it was hot and muggy in Brooklyn and I had not yet met my husband.]

Today we waited for rain. Now it’s come, and that last crash of thunder sent my heart hurtling towards my throat. There used to be a tree at my window; it fell in a storm. So nothing shields me from the sun these days, no leafy green. My room is messy also, momentarily. My royal blue folder on the floor, the unkempt remnants of comedy scattered beneath it. The goldenrod tax proposal still languishes atop the bookcase to my right—what can I say? I don’t get it. It doesn’t breathe. Continue reading

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These Wounds Won’t Seem to Heal

[This is a snapshot from the summer of 2005, when I was on my way around the world. Hunter is not the truck driver’s real name.]

These wounds won’t seem to heal/This pain is just too real/There’s just too much that time cannot erase….

I hear a woman’s cutting soprano keening these words, as I stride past the back entrance of a dull brown building just off the main quadrangle of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Inside a concrete-and-cinderblock utility room is a thirty-something Hispanic man, lounging against the wall, smoking a cigarette, listening to the music. Or perhaps not listening—perhaps counting the hours left in his shift, perhaps wishing the radio would switch to a tune not quite so bloody with heartbreak.

I met Hunter when I was hitch-hiking from West Virginia to Arizona, in the fall of 2004. Continue reading

Trapped in a Forest of Little Chairs

[In spring 2006 – back when I was Helen Newman – I worked for a semester as an English teacher at a Korean cram school in Bayside, Queens. This is a record of a moment from that spring.]

Trapped in a forest of little chairs, I turn gingerly from Salina to Seule. I monitor my movements as I maneuver between the two rows of students, so as to avoid collision with heads or eyes or desktops, which all lurk far below eye level. The seven ten-year-olds in my Monday-afternoon English class insist on cramming their desks into the front half of the drab but spacious classroom. Which means that I must practice grace and agility, as I sidle from one desk to the next, checking written answers on worksheets.

As I pivot from Salina’s desk to Seule’s. Henry twists back and upwards to catch my attention. Continue reading