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author photo 2010 hi resSo you just wrote a book about the challenges of committing to love when we all know how damn hard relationships really are. What do you know about love?

I’ve been in a marriage that didn’t work and now I’m in a marriage that works. I love love. It’s a great way to live in the world. But after spending two years writing a novel about love (and seventeen years living in love), I think that most of us dive into relationships with some kind of blind faith. We think: Ours will work. Ours will be different. There is no rule book. We make it all up as we go along.

“Neither Here Nor There” | Rebecca Marino

Inside a moving hotel elevator, I’m painting pink strokes on the wall. It feels like I’m painting glue on thick fabric. I’m in a hurry because the first floor is fast approaching. Right before the door slides open, I bring the thin paintbrush down to my right side, trying to hide it from whoever is waiting to step in. I can’t see the person, but I know it’s a man. We stand in silence until he leaves. The doors close again, and again I bring the brush to the wall, this time retracing the strokes, trying to fix it before someone else arrives. This repeats.

Photograph of Novelist Katie CrouchBestselling author Katie Crouch (Men and Dogs; Girls in Trucks) has a new book out. Abroad is a quick-moving, high-action read that plays out both our best and worst fantasies of being a young, beautiful foreigner in Italy. Her characters are so perfectly drawn, so wonderfully vivid, you might just confuse them for people you actually know (or have read about in the news!).

Liza Monroy_005Wait, you did what?

I married my best friend for his green card shortly after September 11, 2001. He’s gay and from a Middle Eastern country I call Emiristan to help protect his identity. His student visa was expiring and he would have had to return to live in the closet in a homeland where he could be killed were it found out that he happened to share a gender with the person he romantically loved. I much preferred for him to stay in West Hollywood and with me. In Emiristan, he would likely have had to enter an arranged marriage with a woman, so he entered one with me, instead. Ours had fewer restrictions and no expectations.

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She is engrossed in some sort of looming or woodworking that requires her to wear a bib.

He, in overalls with only one strap fastened, is hammering out a poem. Stuck, he can’t find something pleasing that rhymes with “endeavor.”

She suggests “forever.”

He whispers something under his breath, then raises it an octave and yelps.

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All we needed was a tent but we didn’t have one, because I was supposed to be “at the library” and she was supposed to be “working later on a Friday than usual.” We only had a blanket, some snacks, and water. It was hot just like all the other summer Fridays we’d spent together, but instead of meeting at her best friend’s apartment we were in one of the many little outposts of Griffith Park, committing our adultery on a blanket.

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January is a month for beginnings. This isn’t a new concept, nor is it one that I’ve ever particularly subscribed to: calendar dates are mostly arbitrary, rarely aligning with actual historical events and watershed moments. The president was inaugurated, again; the trees remained bare and scrawny; winter quarter at the university commenced. For me, though, two very new sensations appeared: my arms and legs began to shake uncontrollably, vibrating as if by some odd, latent tic; and I became convinced that I didn’t exist.

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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

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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.

Most people would rather convince themselves of being in love than of being happy, just as most people would rather believe they are talking to others when talking to themselves.”  –Sarah Manguso

 

Marfa 2012This story will end with two women naked in a bathtub. Let’s say that, for now, it begins with a drive to Marfa, Texas. I was with one of my best and longest-time friends, Kaitlyn, on our way to spend an annual weekend getaway there. As Dallas faded into a haze in the rearview mirror, we half-joked that this time we were going to Marfa to find ourselves, our “center.” What we meant was that we were looking for some kind of fulfillment or self-sufficiency—maybe happiness is the word—but the joke was that, in reality, we would have preferred to bring our boyfriends with us…except that we didn’t have any. “Finding ourselves,” whatever that meant, would just have to serve as a consolation prize.

0-2Peter Trachtenberg, author of  Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons (DaCapo Press) explores love, marriage, death and longing through his relationships with both cats and people. The narrative begins when his cat Biscuit, the golden kitty, goes missing while his wife is abroad and he is teaching in North Carolina. While Trachtenberg deliberates whether to travel the 1400 miles round-trip to search for her (spoiler alert—he does) he begins to unravel the beginning of the end of his marriage.

We met in the dim basement of a fraternity. The fraternity—we can’t remember which now, any one of those old columned houses lining Rugby Road—pumped music loud and we had to shout in each other’s ears to be heard. We were refilling our red Solo cups from the keg of cheap beer when we first yelled to each other. We were dressed alike, in tee-shirts and denim shorts. We joked later that we found each other because we were the two people who looked as if they shouldn’t be there, vaguely alternative kids in a sea of khakis and L.L. Bean.

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.

It was our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple and I was obligated to force upon my husband an enchanted evening of romantic extortion.

I know, I know. Valentine’s Day belongs to pagans and 3rd graders who use grammatically incorrect phrases like “crazy 4 u” or “ur 2 cute” as a means of seduction. But I’m not a pagan and as a former English instructor and sugar connoisseur, I frown upon poor syntax etched into chalky candy.

As for my husband, he vehemently renounces Valentine’s Day as a scam and the only candy heart conversations he’d even be interested in are, “Where’s my New Yorker?” and “I’m going to Home Depot.” Sentiments that hardly solicit romantic intrigue.