@

I was a little wobbly in front of the urinal. Left and Right seemed to call my shoulders from center, while my head surfed evenly above their oceanic bobbing. My aim was good at least.

I caught the guy to my left, a short chubby fellow with long hair and a black leather jacket, peeking down.

He saw that he’d been caught and smiled. “American?”

“What?” I shook. “Yeah.” Stuffed. “How’d you know?” and zipped.

He kept his eyes up as he gestured towards my nethers with his whiskered chin. “You’re cut… and you don’t strike me as the Jewish type.”

“Cut?”

“Your Peepee wears a V-neck, mate.”

I sat down at the bar next to my friend Elaine. She was a good friend from Chicago who’d lived in London and taught high school science for five years. Her friend Isabella was tending bar. Isabella was from Argentina, but had been in London long enough to sound British. I had a bit of a crush on Isabella.

Elaine looked tired. It was a school night. “Well, I’m heading back to the flat if you wanna come.”

“No,” I said. “I think I’ll stay for another drink.” In the hope that maybe I’d be able to walk Isabella home when the bar closed.

As Elaine left, the man from the bathroom emerged and took her stool. “So, what’s that like?” he asked.

“What?”

“Being circumcised.”

“I dunno. Fine.”

His eyes excreted an angry flame, like a solar flare, that was gone as quickly as it came. “Fine my ass. It’s bloody child abuse.”

I felt a little ashamed. “Well, I didn’t do it to myself.”

“Damn good thing. I’d a kicked yer ass if ya had.”

I nodded.

Isabella smiled from behind the bar. I wondered what her feelings on the subject were.

“You know it steals the sensation.” He pointed towards his own crotch.

“It’s been alright for me. Sex, I mean,” I said loud enough to be heard by both the bar’s patron and tender.

Now he smiled. “That’s cause you haven’t tried it with my cock.”

Another nod.

Another smile from Isabella

At that point a six foot blond Asian with a waist as thick as a pipe cleaner and roughly head-sized fake breasts threw in her two cents. “I don’t give a damn if it’s snipped or it isn’t as long as there’s coke on the tip of it.”

“Well, that’s just filthy, doll,” said the man as he put his arm around the small of her back.

The woman made a gesture as if sniffing coke from the tip of a handheld phallus, and the man and I exhaled long-lost breaths from the deepest places in our diaphragms, united in some primordial frustration that can only be tapped by the mimicry of sex acts.

Isabella was closing the bar, but it seemed that the man and a few others, including the Amazonian Asian Brit, and myself would be allowed to stay.

He ordered drinks for everyone. Shots of whiskey and pints. “You a musician mate?”

“Not professionally.” I took the drinks he offered. “You?”

“I play a bit.” He sipped thoughtfully. “Where you from?”

“Chicago.”

His head tilted like a puppy that hasn’t completely grasped that human speech will always be unintelligible. “Is that the one with all the buildings and whatnot?”

I decided to go along. “Ummmm… yeah.”

“I think my band played there.”

“What’s your band called?”

“The Darkness.”

I nodded.

Two hours later, we were still talking foreskin. I’m not sure where he obtained his stores of knowledge on the subject, or even if the facts he was spouting were accurate. There was a world out there, conspiratorial without a doubt, but frighteningly feasible, in which every human peril was symbolized in this one little snip of the scissors: Global warming, Ebay, the Iraq invasion, Mel Gibson… I can’t for the life of me remember how, but it all came together, ever so briefly, that night only, in the act of circumcision.

The giant Asian woman was now sitting in his lap, which made for the impression of a greyhound sitting in the lap of a pug. He continued to explain it all. I continued to absorb.

Finally, Isabella said it was time to go, and we all ushered ourselves under the metal shutter and stood their beneath sharp pellets of rain on the cold London street.

He lingered like a little kid under a tree, protected from the rain by the arching branch of the giant Asian’s arm. “Come back to our place for a drink?”

I was tempted, but thought better. “I gotta get back, man.”

“Make it worth your while.”

I couldn’t even begin to imagine exactly what his making it worth my while would entail, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t up for it.

Isabella and I stood in the rain and watched them walk off.

“Who the hell is the Darkness?” I asked her.

She sang in her highest pitched voice, “I believe in a thing called love.”

“Weird…”

“Yeah…”

I thought I might want to touch her hand, but I didn’t.





The summer I was twelve, our neighbors, the Lunds, went on a cruise for two weeks while their college-aged son, Toby, stayed in their house. The Lunds were as friendly with us as anyone else on our hilltop cul de sac, waving at my parents when they pulled up in the driveway, chatting with my brother and sister and I when we trick-or-treated at their house. The most neighborly thing my parents did was to pass on the surplus of fruit that grew from the trees in our backyard. My father would throw some lemons in a brown lunch bag, hand it to me or my sister, Becca, or my brother, Josh, and say, take this to the Birch house, or the Lund’s house, or the Krone’s. And we would.

With his parents gone, Toby had a party that lasted a couple days with overnight guests and one giant, ox-like black lab who made giant dog turds on our lawn.

My father was a tolerant man. He tolerated basketball in the house, unbathed kids, moths laying eggs in the kitchen pantry. But he could not tolerate dog shit on the lawn that he alone weeded. A lawn that, without the use of pesticides or herbicides, had the soft, velvety texture of a plush carpet.

Dad scooped up the dog droppings with a trowel, put them in a brown paper lunch bag, handed it to my sister and told her to deliver it to the Lund boy.

I went with her. Toby opened the door. He seemed so large that it was hard to imagine him as someone’s boy.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Becca and I both said.

“You’re Becca and . . . Becca’s sister right?” Toby grinned wide and slow.

“Yeah,” Becca said. Of course she wasn’t going to tell him my name. My sister was fifteen and lately had been categorizing guys into two groups: succulent or gross. Toby was definitely succulent, and surely my sister could think of no reason for him to know my name.

“This is from my dad,” Becca said, and she smiled coyly.

My lips shook and made a pittering sound as I held in my laughter. I wanted Toby to open the bag right then so we could see his face. I wanted him to say something snarky and fantastic that we could deliver back to Dad—something that would keep the entertainment going. At the time, I could think of few things less funny than dog doo in a brown paper lunch bag.

“Okay. Thanks Becca and . . . whatever!” Toby laughed and shut the door.

It took us a while to realize that the Lunds, and all the other families on Azalea Way had stopped talking to everyone in our family. And so my father stopped passing on the lemons. I assumed they shunned us because Josh often left his Big Wheel in the street, or because my mother twice backed out of the driveway in high speed and ran over the Lund’s mailbox, or because someone had climbed the towering eucalyptus trees that bordered our yards, peeked down onto our redwood deck and witnessed my parents’ parties where marijuana was smoked in tight little cigarettes that were butted out in abalone shell ashtrays. Or maybe they were mad because we were the only people on Azalea Way who didn’t put up Christmas lights. Viewed from the bottom of the hill, our cul de sac could almost look like a Christmas tree in December, a tree without a glittery star on top where our dark, unlit house sat like a poor sport.

All of my friends’ mothers hung out together. They played tennis at the club down the street, alternated houses for coffee and showed up at school together doing whatever it is parents did at schools back then. My friend Corinne’s mother had a sharp tongue and probing eyes. One day, Corinne’s mom looked me up and down, glared at the rolled bottoms of my jeans and said, “Doesn’t your mother hem your pants?”

“No,” I said. A couple years earlier my mother had declared that she “quit” being a housewife and we three kids were to tend to the house and fend for ourselves. I never did figure out how to use the Singer sewing machine and Becca, who could whip together a sock puppet or Barbie clothes on the machine in a matter of minutes, was unwilling to hem my clothes for me. I was short, so all my pants were either rolled or jaggedly cut with a pair of scissors.

That same day, Corinne reported to me what her mother had recently heard at the neighborhood coffee.

“Do you know why everyone in the neighborhood hates your family?” Corinne asked. We were in her perfectly matching green and pink room. She had a bed skirt and a canopy, both of which seemed “fancy” to me.

“’Cause Josh leaves his toys outside?”

“No,” Corinne said. “Because last summer you and your sister delivered a bag of your poop to the Lunds and told them it was lemons.”

“No we didn’t!” I had forgotten about the party, the dog shit collected from my father’s then-perfect lawn (he later abandoned lawn care and our plush, green carpet turned into a thigh-high field of straw).

“Yes you did! Their son was there and he left a note on the counter that said, ‘The Blaus sent these lemons over for you.’ and when they came home from their trip they opened the bag and it was full of poop. My mother would never make up something so disgusting.”

“I gotta go home for dinner,” I said. Sometimes it seemed that in showing me everything in her life—the two Christmas trees with miniature villages tucked below each (one in the family room, one in the living room), the two whopping pink Easter baskets she got each spring because her mother couldn’t fit all the candy into one, the new school wardrobe that was so inexhaustible she didn’t have to wear a repeat until sometime in late November—Corrine was pointing out deficiencies in my house, my parents, my life. And just then, when Corrine made it clear that there were two kinds of people in this world, those who give their neighbors bags of poop and those who don’t, I couldn’t stand to be near her.

I ran out of Corinne’s house, past the house where the neighborhood perv hosed his bushes in his bathrobe, the flaps always flying open to reveal what my sister and I called his turkey gobbler; past the Richter house where Mr. Richter was surely sitting in his blue wing chair in the living room staring out at nothing; past the house where neighborhood children were only allowed into the rumpus room or the garage, as if we were stray dogs with fleas and weeping, over-licked sores; up the center of Azalea Way and past all the homes where no one would even look in my direction.

I wanted to cry, but there wasn’t time for that. Becca had just made tacos and she needed me to set the table, open a bottle of red wine for my parents, and fetch my brother who was perched on the platform that was fifteen-feet up one of the eucalyptus trees in the backyard.

By the time we all sat down to eat, a cry was still hovering somewhere on the edge of my throat.

“Remember last year when we delivered the dog poop to the Lunds,” I said, staring down at my taco.

“Can you believe a kid would let a dog that big just shit wherever it wanted?!” My father was still outraged by the crime.

“Well,” I said, “their son put the bag of poop on the counter and left a note for his parents that they were lemons from us. Corinne’s mom told Corinne and she told me. That’s why no one will talk to us.”

There was a moment of silence, and then we looked at one another and each of us, including Josh, who never even knew about the poop-in-the-bag-incident, started laughing. And laughing. And laughing.

My parents never apologized to the Lunds. They never said a word. My mother hated that neighborhood and was happy she didn’t have to do small talk and chit chat each time she walked to her car. And my father was so caught up in his head, often talking aloud to himself about whatever he was working on, that he probably just forgot we were being shunned. I am certain that none of the neighbors missed us when we moved.

… I’d find myself chasing a hedgehog through a cemetery…

That’s right. I have chased a hedgehog over the graves of my Victorian ancestors.

I have to walk through a cemetery to get to the center of town. I was walking back home one night, at about 6pm, after watching the shambolic Christmas Lights ‘switch on.’ As I walked I saw a strange shape moving behind a headstone. It was shuffling towards the path. I just assumed it was a bird or something, but no! As it moved ever nearer it became clear I was face to face with a fucking hedgehog.

I’d never seen a genuine hedgehog before, and frankly I was excited. Not only was I looking at a wild hedgehog, it was moving towards me, no doubt attempting to establish ‘first contact.’

Its decision to flee came suddenly.

The prickly bastard realised that I was quite theoretically a threat to his survival, and he changed course immediately.

I didn’t hesitate to follow him.

I don’t know if I’m proud or ashamed of that fact. I like to think it was some wild instinct, but I suspect it has more to do with my own innate childishness.

I really didn’t know hedgehogs could move so fast. I was quite out of breath, and I really needed to cough; as soon as I did the ‘hog reverted to stereotype. He rolled himself into a tight little ball.

It was adorable.

I could have left it at that, but I hadn’t had my fun with him yet. I had not had my fill of hedgehog hijinks. I wanted to touch him, but I couldn’t find a stick anywhere. I threw a bit of grass at him, to no avail.

So I sat and waited; I’m a university student, I don’t have anything better to do with my time.

My patience was rewarded. Slowly, two beady little eyes peered out, blinking at me. I sensed we’d made a connection; he began to relax. The human-hedgehog gap had finally been bridged.

Until I coughed again; the hedgehog recoiled in terror, and I began to wonder if hedgehogs suffered from weak hearts. I hoped not.

I decided to leave him be, and I haven’t seen another hedgehog since. Although earlier this evening I found myself chasing a kitten across campus: best Saturday night ever.


… I’d find myself trying to win drinks off Swedish businessmen at 3am…

The people I was drinking with that night had been my friends for little more than a week. It was the night that really cemented a lasting bond and has unanimously been voted the best night we’ve ever had living here.

The night actually started at about three o’clock in the afternoon at Buddy’s, which is this awesome American-style diner in the middle of Winchester. After a bottle of Miller Genuine Draft and a burger we headed down to a pub on the river and had a few good pints of ale.

By seven o’clock we’d gradually become drunk on cheap Bulgarian wine with our Student Advisor at a get-together for older students, and had found ourselves locked in the lecture theatre.

This was especially awkward in the wake of a recent spate of thefts from the lecture theatre. We were almost hoping we’d have to spend the night there, and had quite a lot of fun with the microphone; we performed our version of ‘Rape Me’ by Nirvana.

We got out via a fire exit, and fled the accusing glances of a university official in the car park.

We finally got the pub venue for our Department Social at around eight; this was pretty uneventful, although good beer and good times were had by all. The fun really started after we got thrown out just after eleven pm. Nobody wanted to go home, and there were five of us who still fancied another drink.

This led us to a bar none of us remember; it may well have been a figment of our collective imaginations.

I had to borrow money to buy a pint. There was a guy standing on the bar with an acoustic guitar singing Bob Dylan songs.

How we got talking to the Swedes I vaguely remember. I think it had something to do with Curt (although I knew him only as ‘handshake guy’ at the time) and his drunken handshaking. Before we knew what was going on we were talking to a group of Scandinavian businessmen who worked for IBM. They bought us free gin and tonics and I got a bottle of Peroni.

However, the gravy train stopped, and conditions became attached. First we had to find them pretty blonde girls to talk too, which was unsuccessful— even pretty girls don’t like being pimped, apparently.

Then it was just a simple language challenge: speak Swedish, win beer.

The bitterness of failure was heightened by the fact that I actually know several Swedish phrases, but they’d all been submerged in free Italian beer and gin…


… I’d end up making the Centurion from ‘The Life of Brian’ laugh…

One of my modules here is taught by a guy named Bernard McKenna.

He wrote for several vaguely well known British sitcoms and acted in a few of them too.

More impressively he has worked with Douglas Adams and all of Monty Python. The man had two roles in The Life of Brian and began his first class with ‘I was having dinner with John Cleese last week…’

It became my goal in life to make him laugh. This was sort of awkward, as I got the distinct impression the man wasn’t used to competition in his classes. I don’t want to come across as boastful or biased, but I’m pretty sure over our three classes I got more laughs.

And in the last class, his feedback on my script was ‘you should have written a comedy; I think you’ve got a talent for it.’


… I’d find myself lying to the the British Constabulary…

This was especially surprising given that about four hours earlier I’d claimed that the most likely person to complain about our house party to the police was me.

I had a bad feeling about the house party, and the forty-plus people that would be turning up. I spent the week envisioning myself homeless after being evicted from the property. I’d planned my escape route over the fence if the worst came to the worst.

It did, but it seems there is a big difference between the sober James D. Irwin, and the James D. Irwin who has been to the pub, had three pints of Guinness and was now onto somebody else’s warm lager.

I guess I was relaxed. The one person I’d hoped would show up did indeed show up, and when the rozzers arrived I was standing outside with her and a man dressed as a minister (it was a fancy dress event). I saw a wheel pull up and wondered who hadn’t arrived yet.

Then I saw the police hats.

As we were outiside, we were approached first. I was being very British about it— keeping calm, stiff upper lip.

I’d forgotten that I was dressed as Magnum, PI.

”Are you residents or guests? We need to talk to a resident about this party.”

I was indeed a resident, but they couldn’t prove it! They’d never make it stick! It’s not a crime if you believe it to be untrue! (That was going to be my defence if I got arrested; I was going to plead inebriation)…

”Oh no Officer!” I said, raising my can of beer. ”Just good honest guests!”

I didn’t stop there…

”A damn menace is what this is! I tried telling them about the noise— I said someone would call the Old Bill! No one ever listens to me!”

The police officer had stopped listening to me.

Seizing what seemed like the perfect opportunity to impress the girl I leaned toward her, covered my mouth before loudly whipering ”I JUST LIED TO THE POLICE!”

Rather than being taken like the bad-boy-rebel-who-plays-by-his-own-rules that I thought I was, I was scolded like a naughty child.

I don’t understand girls.


… I’d find myself dressed as a policeman in an alley and scaring young children…

I recently had to make a short film for an assesment.

We never wrote a script.

We just did it.

I met with my co-worker, Nick and Liam, to scout a suitable location to stage the murder of a baker.

The shoot was more troubled than Apocalypse Now.

The camera kept running out of power, people kept getting in the shot— it was set in 1911.

Our first choice location was covered in market stalls… we couldn’t find a toy gun… and fake blood started at £3.50.

We hustled into McDonald’s to steal ketchup, only to find they had run out.

We had to make do with BBQ sauce.

Finally, we were ready.

Then all the batteries died.

Nick had to run off to buy more; I was left in an alleyway wearing a toy police helmet. I was standing next to a guy holding what looked like a huge knife.

A young child stared at us as he came up the street. He got within a foot of us and decided he wasn’t taking any chances: he crossed the road, watching us all the while, ready to flee at any necessary moment.

Nick came back, we got all the shots we needed; we wrapped.

As we strolled up the road I felt Nick nudge me.

We’d walked about five yards.

He was pointing at house with a painted sign above the door:

C. E. Matthews

Family Bakers

Est. 1901

We got the camera out again.

It started to rain.


… I’d find myself struggling to find a good way to wrap up a post…

I guess this will have to do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more small mammals to chase.

Which reminds me: a few weeks ago I had a great time watching a mouse trying to vault over the edge of a flower bed.

It was like watching Point Break: hilarious and yet strangely inspirational.

Vaya Con Dios, Brah.






TNB TV 
The latest video from Rich Ferguson, “When You Hear This I Hope You Know It’s About You.” Directed by Zayde Naquib. Herwig Maurer on guitar.


TNB Hall of Fame
In a piece entitled “Taking it Day-by-Day,” Marni Grossman reflects on her soul-sucking day job at a calendar kiosk in a Delaware shopping mall. “My manager, Scott, is a pathological liar,” she writes. “Among other things, he’s told me that he was in a counter-narcotics group in the military and that his ex-army buddies want him to join them as a ‘hired mercenary.’ By his own statements, he’s been a manager at a Big Lots and at Naturalizer, a truck driver, a fireman, a wannabe policeman. He saved a Labrador from a dog-fighting ring. He’s written two mystery novels. ‘Sometimes,’ he told me, ‘when I was writing my book, I just couldn’t believe how good it was. I blew myself away.’”


Excerpt From Chapter 1

 

Raising children in Las Vegas presented a unique set of parenting challenges, not the least of which was the ever-present, over-sexualized, female exploitation sub-culture that loomed over your children.  Nowadays the entire country is over-sexualized as young girls willingly exploit themselves for their fifteen minutes of fame.  But, when I was growing up, Las Vegas was ahead of its time in this department.

I remember riding in the car on the way to second grade at St. Viator, staring at the racy advertisements that were plastered on the taxis that passed us by.  I was particularly obsessed with the one for a show called, Crazy Girls!  I thought to myself, “They must be crazy, they’re not wearing any pants!” as the tanned asses of eight showgirls stared back at me.

While all of these influences didn’t appear to affect my good-girl, follow the rules, obsessive-compulsive self, secretly it was on my mind.  I would never dream of actually becoming like these women myself, but what was the harm in pretending that my Barbies were Crazy Girls! ? Pretty soon all of my Barbies were jumping into their hot pink jeep and heading out for a wild night at the strip club.

By the time I was in the seventh grade, my Barbie dream house had transformed into a virtual Mustang Ranch.  Malibu Barbie pranced around wearing not much more than her painted on tan lines.  The previously harmless Ken was suddenly donning Barbie’s fur coat and bossing everybody around, saying things like, “Bitch better have my money!”  Teenaged Skipper cried all the time and smoked a lot of dope to numb the pain of lost innocence and the rough life of the sex trade.  I was really into my dark Barbie world and my heart broke for these girls as though they had made these choices themselves and I had nothing to do with it.   Meanwhile, I went on with my self-righteous little life, saying my prayers and studying for my exams.

There is certain innocence in still having affection for Barbie when you’re already twelve years old, even if your Barbies are drug-addicted hookers and Ken is a pimp with a God complex.  At least I wasn’t doing any of those terrible things and I had no plans to ever do drugs or have pre-marital sex.  And as far as I knew, no one in my class had those plans either. 

Then I got to high school….

**

Excerpt From Chapter 3 – How to Scare the Crap out of Your Child (in a Positive Way)

 


INT.  FAMILY KITCHEN – EVENING

A FATHER sits at the table reading the newspaper while eating cookies.
His DAUGHTER, a cute college girl, walks in.

				DAUGHTER
			Hi Daddy.

				FATHER
			Hi sweetheart.  Did you have some cookies?

				DAUGHTER
			Nah.  I’m on a diet.

				FATHER
			You’re too damn thin as it is.  You’re gonna waste
			away.

Father spills crumbs down his shirt as he takes a bite of another cookie.

				FATHER
			Oh well, more for me.

				DAUGHTER
			So, my friends and I are thinking of going to T.J.
			for the weekend.

				FATHER
			T.J.?

				DAUGHTER
			Tiajuana.

				FATHER
			Tiajuana?!  What the hell would you want to go
			there for?

				DAUGHTER
				(guilty)
			I don’t know.  It’s supposed to be fun.

				FATHER
			You’d just better be careful.

				DAUGHTER
			We will.  Of course, we will.

				FATHER
                        You have no rights when you’re over there.
			No rights.  Let me tell you, those Federales will
			rob you, rape you, and leave you to rot in a
			Mexican jail, all because you didn’t have the forty
			bucks to pay them off.

				DAUGHTER
			Well –

				FATHER
			You’d better bring an extra forty bucks with you
                        and set it aside as bribe money.

		                DAUGHTER
                        Okay.

                                FATHER
                        Better yet, two sets of forty bucks.  In case you get
                        stopped twice.

		                DAUGHTER
                        So, eighty-bucks?

		               FATHER
                        Yeah, but in two separate parts of your wallet.
                        They have to think that forty is all you’ve got.  You
                        understand?

		               DAUGHTER
                        I…think so.  Anyway, I’ll bring the phone number
                        for the American Embassy, in case I’m mis-treated.

		               FATHER
	                  (laughing)
                        You think you get a phone call?  This isn’t the United
                        States we’re talking about.  

                              DAUGHTER
                        Oh.

		               FATHER
                        And don’t make eye-contact with anybody down
                        there.  You make eye contact, you might as well
                        have a big target on your back.

		               DAUGHTER
                        Well, I mean…we’re probably not even going.  We
                        were just, you know, talking about maybe going.

		               FATHER
                        Oh, I thought you had already decided.

		               DAUGHTER
                        Nah.  I mean, with those Federales and everything…
                        you’d have to be nuts to go.  

		               FATHER
                        Smart girl.

 
 

The preceding scene was an example of how simple it can be to frighten your child out of doing something without having to “lay down the law.” The father in this scenario never once tells his daughter she can’t go, he merely “mentions” the terrible things that could happen to her in a foreign land.  
 

Notice how he opens with the comment, “What the hell would you want to go there for?” This is a very effective manipulation tool. The girl instantly feels ashamed as the image of her drunk, under-aged self, making out with a hot stranger flashes through her mind. Terrified that the same image may be flashing through her father’s mind, the kid wants to crawl under a rock and die. Mission accomplished….

 
 

Last night, wakened by oxygen’s loss, I realized 
I’d seen you in a dream. Source, scourge, harbinger 
of nightmare, force behind every pinpointed attack,
 
 

you dive and dare, exhaust and terrify, feathered 
frenzy flying swift at every dust mote in the sky, 
twinkling, turning in December’s red blood sun,
 
 

the bright white bone moon’s eye. Confronted, 
clenching fists to fight back against not even close 
to a murder of you, I consulted exhausted lobes
 
 

and chambers. They echoed, timeworn, pitted, 
simply shot through. You play a part, the only 
blackened creature left in this body’s petting zoo,

 
 

home for memory’s images of gasping children, 
taut with the stretching of skin, wide eyes and open 
mouths all straining for a full breath. To begin. 
 
 

A Life Done Wrong

By Hannah Wehr

Poem

At the age of 88, my heart will attack me 
 



82: all you really need are large handled jugs of chardonnay and cat food 
 



I am 71. I tell my husband that I understand. Sometimes the only thing we can control in life is how we kiss it good-bye. I sleep beside his body for two days before I call anyone

 
 

In my 62nd year I learn that mercy imposes no conditions

 
 

At the age of 58, my husband sleeps with a woman who is not me. I wring my heart out like a sock

 
 

56: I make casseroles for the homeless, read to underprivileged children, start a neighborhood recycling program. I wonder when I will feel something  
 



I am 52. I bury my mother. Two months later my son steps in front of a train with his arms outstretched like Christ 
 



In my 49th year, I become far too interested in the lives of celebrities. I buy a Crock-Pot. I make too much food and my family looks at this weird abundance in silence

 
 

At the age of 47, my life does not suit my shoes or my cigarettes. I go out to get canned pineapple and I come home with two cocker spaniels and a homeless man

 
 

41: my son tries to tell me something. I ask him to wait. And he waits for years. That winter while driving I run over a rabbit. I throw my cell phone into a field and have an affair

 
 

I am 34. I realize that I love anyone who reads to me

In my 31st year, I wonder if I care for anything. I wonder if I am hungry out of habit

 
 

At the age of 30 I have a son. I am afraid to touch him. I leave him in the bathtub for long periods of time

 
 

27: I marry because that is what is next in the natural progression of things. I will spend the rest of my life feeling like I am living in someone else’s clothes 
 



I am 22. I believe in God because I refuse to accept that seahorses are an accident

 
 

When I am 17, I make the choice to look like the type of trouble certain men choose to get into

 
 

12: I learn that these are only words and we never mean them

 
 

9: I am punished for bringing home a stray cat. I learn that it is a liability to love

 
 

7: I believe in snowmen. I hope for more

 
 

5: I learn to be quiet 
 



4: I believe that my mother’s red car will be a fire truck when it grows up 
 



1: I learn how to say no. Two decades later, I will forgot how 
 



And at the point when I first meet myself, I already know that my ghost bones are engraved with directions.