the drain


On Saturday Amber woke up in her new apartment from her first deep sleep in months. When she ambled over to the kitchen to make some coffee she happily felt like it was her millionth morning there and not her first. But when she ran the tap, the water did not swirl downward. Instead, it filled up the sink with a defiant quickness that startled her and when she ran the disposal, it only churned in a way that was taunting not helpful. It was then Amber came to realize that her drain was clogged.


Amber texted the landlady who told her to call the super who then called a handyman. Unavailable until after the weekend, the handyman called a man he knew who could fix the problem. The man’s name was Stan and the handyman knew that Stan would be the perfect man for the job.


Stan showed up an hour later. When Amber let him in, she felt a touch of pride that everything was in order in spite of it only being her second official day in her new home. (She was also quite relieved that her closets were big enough that they could hide most of the mess she still had left to organize into oblivion.) Stan hardly noticed. Stan knew it didn’t matter what was laid out in front of him. He was a man who had seen the inside of a lot of places and reserved his judgments for elsewhere. (He had also heard the slam of the closet doors as he waited for Amber to let him in.)


But Stan was there to help and Amber had the look of a woman who needed more than just a little bit of help.


Now fully caffeinated, Amber chirped and whistled while retelling her morning discovery and the alarm that she felt about her new drain. Stan nodded silently; only asking for a plastic bag when he thought Amber was done. (In reality she was only pausing for breath but after seeing his blank look, she decided less was more in this particular case.)


Stan opened up the white plastic bag beneath his large black boots like the underbelly of a flayed fish.


He pushed up his sleeve and reached down into the murky water until he touched the disposal. Grunting, he began to pull out a thin shiny black string of some sort that seemed to go on and on and on; except it wasn’t a string because it was flat with a kind of metallic sheen. Stan was careful not to get tangled up in it and Amber wondered out loud if he had ever seen such a thing. Stan did not reply. He knew the question was more a comment than an inquiry and that his answer did not matter. After what seemed like a shorter version of forever, a clear case with pink, blue, and yellow graphics emerged like the tip of an exclamation point dangling from the bottom of the polyester plastic film. The Memorex logo still legible, Amber knew what this endless strand was.


It was a mix tape. Specifically a mix tape that a boy in high school had made for her during her Freshman year. The boy was named Tony and, well, Tony hadn’t actually made it for Amber but for himself. He had given it to her out of guilt a few days after the two had played a game of quarters that resulted in Amber & Tony drunkenly “doing it” on the unmade basement bed of Amber’s best friend, Lissette. But the simple “groping-gone-too-far” had been made even more complicated by the untold truth that Tony was secretly in love with Lissette who, unknowingly to Amber and Tony, was secretly in love with Amber. Tony had felt saddened by the whole experience and, inspired by the potential loss of two friendships, had made this tape he proudly titled, “Two Sides of the Same Coin.” Filling one side with heartbreak and angst and the other with anger and angst. Having not seen the tape in years, Amber suddenly remembered it had meant the world to her back then. She would scan the music and the lyrics (and especially the angst) for some insight into Tony but found the deeper she dug the less she saw.


The plumber dropped in onto the white plastic like the pile of nothing it had really been.


Oh, now I feel foolish, she said.


Don’t worry about it, said Stan.

You’d be surprised how often I see this kind of thing.


Stan returned to the sink and dug even deeper; his arm seemingly impossibly long as it disappeared down the drain. Slow and steady.


Next Stan pulled out a book. Amber, mouth open and still in shock at the resurfacing of Tony’s synthetic offering, recognized the well-worn copy of Nietzche’s HUMAN, ALL TOO HUMAN immediately. She had purchased the book on the recommendation of some unidentifiably handsome boy. He had brought it up one white winter morning while they stood huddled about sharing cigarettes and witty quips in between classes, making her run to her college bookstore straight away to buy it with her student loan voucher. For the rest of the year it lived inside her bag so that Amber could diligently pull out the dog-eared copy whenever she felt appropriate. She would open it up with dramatic nonchalance, wrapping the cover around itself and staring intently while pursing her lips over a cup of black coffee (or feeling existentially deep, around a smoke) but never actually reading a word. To be honest, Amber had no clue what it was all about, as she hadn’t even gotten past the foreword.


Good book, Stan commented as he threw it down amongst unfurled, and now silenced, soundtrack of her youth.


This time it was Amber’s turn to grunt in reply.


Stan turned his broad back to Amber and went back to work. He paused for second and his arm swirled as if he were noodling a catfish until he pulled out a soaking wet pile of cards and day-glo post-it notes. They dropped down with a wet smack onto the growing pile.


Amber came closer and grabbed a chopstick from the drawer. Peering down at Stan’s feet, she began to poke through the accumulation of her life’s chaos.


At the top of the heap, Amber recognized a note she had once written to herself as an exercise in affirmation, which read, “You are beautiful.” But the words had since run soggy in the water and the affirmation was more of a dripping reminder of unachieved confidence than anything else. Beneath it, the once thick paper of a greeting card, now nearly transparent, revealed the still recognizable outline of an adorable spunky beagle dancing below a cavalcade of hearts. “Snoopy in Love.”


Amber remembered the faded valentine from a boy she hadn’t really liked much. When they were six the boy had wanted to play a game of “show and tell” which was of the nature that most parents dread. He had demanded Amber go first and the two children bickered back and forth until ultimately it was his hesitation that Amber found most boring and, annoyed by his fear, she indeed went first with a violence that frightened them both. Neither had wanted to play with each other much after that but the Valentine had still arrived in her cubby a month later bearing his crooked name in block print. Even then, Snoopy’s dance seemed to taunt her as a reminder of her unwelcomed aggression.


Amber rolled her neck around. She was beginning to get tired of the whole process. The past can be exhausting.


Do you think that’s it? Amber asked. Her vertebrae cracked in a most rewarding way.


Stan looked at Amber. She realized he had now seen the pieces of her soul and the dirty water they floated in. She tried to push the thought down as clearly was her pattern.


Sometimes you think you’ve got it all out but there’s still something stuck in there. That’s the gem. The catalyst of the clog.


For the first time, Amber noticed Stan had a slight accent. She thought dismissively that if someone played him in a movie, it would be one of the generic accents that seem to come from Eastern Europe. She didn’t mean to be rude and hated it when her mind generalized things in such a way. She blamed the anxiety that was growing again in her belly as he reached back down into her disposal.
Minutes later, blond shiny hair wrapped around Stan’s fingers as he pulled out the final piece. She knew instantly what it was and Amber’s heart sunk.


Amber’s father had been prone to long trips away from Amber and her mother. Her happiness at his return was always balanced out by her dread of the nighttime shouting that would keep her up no matter how deeply she dug her head into her mattress. The doll Stan was now pulling out from her grown-up drain had been given after one of those childhood trips that took her father away from her. She now remembered that it had been just before the last trip that the doll had been gifted and then after that there was only absence without return.


The doll had sat, nameless, on her shelf where, from high above, she looked down on Amber with her perfect hair and irresistible countenance. The display a constant reminded to Amber of the years since he had left and the hole that never seemed to fill up. Amber had hated that doll and revered it all at once – afraid she could never be as pretty which later translated to smart which then just meant being the type of girl who held that mysterious key that meant you were the one they went to not the one they always left.


Amber leaned over Stan and ran her fingers across where the disposal’s blades had sliced the doll’s face in an attempt to break her down into smaller, more digestive, pieces. Despite the effort, all they had managed to do was to vaguely mar her toy like perfection not disfigure her into a more humanly countenance. Amber took the doll from Stan and added it to the heap of history that had formed at this stranger’s feet. It all seemed so silly and sordid and broken when you piled it all up on top of one another.


The Plumber reached down in once more but they both knew there was nothing left. Finally Stan removed his hands from Amber’s drain and placed them in front of her, palms up, to show her that they were now empty handed.


Well, Stan said with a sigh.

I think that’s it.


Amber looked down at the pile and had to agree.


Yes, she said.

I think it was.



TO NOTE: You can avoid most clogs by not abusing your kitchen drain line. Don’t overload your disposer with history; foods high in starch, like pasta, potatoes, and rice; or memories high in feelings, like celery and scars. Also, run plenty of cold water down the drain and let the disposer catch up after every cup of emotion you push into it. Never dump sentiments or coffee grounds into the drain. If allowed to settle and cool, they solidify in the drain.


Photo by Christina Preiss



Claudia met Jonathan at one of those 1st birthday parties people have at parks. The kind you have when your child is too young to be mobile but you want to do something to celebrate that you actually made it through the first year, baby and marriage in tact. Sometimes barely.



Like a petite techno neo hippie, Jonathan’s wife fluttered around asking the guests if she could mix them a mimosa. Her skirt skimmed the edges of the blankets laid out on the ground, the tapestry of rich refugees, and her eyes never stayed long on anyone she asked. Like a sprite, she was off to fill the orders she barely heard. It was Jonathan who brought Claudia her drink. Busy, organizing her own toddler’s things on her little square of real estate, she thought nothing about anything until he handed her the plastic cup. He leaned over her a bit, blocking out the sun, and she was momentarily blinded. They did the hand off of strangers save for one tiny centimeter of contact. Just a pinky grazing a thumb.


Honey, did you meet Jonathan?


Claudia’s husband bounded up carrying a Frisbee from some wedding they had gone to in their youth. (Claudia’s husband was good at saving everything but their marriage.)


Yes. No. Maybe?


Claudia smiled and raised her hand in front of her face, rocking it side to side in a gesture she’d been teased about but never been able to shake. She thought that was the moment they first met but later Jonathan had admitted to her that he had seen her before, at another party, and had noticed the same smile, wave, gesture, and that same night, over too much wine, confessed that at that moment he knew he would want to see that repetitive pattern of unconscious greeting again and again for the rest of his life.


A week later, Claudia saw Jonathan on the treadmill at the gym.


Claudia & Jonathan never actually made love but kissed in (what seemed to Claudia) every crack or crevice in the city that you can get to by car. Prime numbers together they are merely less than that apart.


There are 3 kids between them split up in two uneven divisions. One lover and wife who reigns supreme with freshly baked goods and faux primitive jewelry purchased at boutique shops in Los Feliz. While Claudia was the queen of giving out carefully measured vulnerability, Jonathan’s wife was the creator of many an online vegan recipe – the type that lends itself to not only a delicious bite but, also, how to create the perfect eco-friendly home.


On Instagram and Facebook they played with each other like tigers in separate cages. Pawing at cell block images as they flash between bars.


Sometimes Claudia would walk the streets from shop to shop, reading the marks and stains on the pavement like tea leaves. She stopped in front of a book store and stared into the window. More at her reflection than anything behind the glass. Below her, under the window, an ice cream puddle formed. As she eyed the discarded cone, she wondered if it had any meaning at all or was simply an abandoned waste of something sweet and delicious.


A few weeks later, Claudia thought of that ice cream puddle and not wanting to be an emotional glutton, Claudia knew she had to end it. It was too much. The grasping for breath trying to keep her marriage afloat and the painful undertow of something deeper that she didn’t know she needed until it appeared before her in the middle of a Sunday across an expanse of lawn. That breath of life that she knew she must snuff.


She called him from her car and pulled over to sit beneath the shade. Enclosed in the warmth of her car that smelled like coffee and child, she took a deep breath.


I can’t do this anymore


I know, said Jonathan


It hurts too much


I know, he repeated


Claudia knew Jonathan would know it before she said it.


Claudia came home and locked herself in the bathroom. Under the heated drops she cried. She sat at the table and looked across at her little family. Her prime number always her priority. Claudia’s husband smiled at her. It seemed different than before and she wondered if somehow it had been a long time since she had noticed him.


They put their son to bed and laughed at the way he fought to stay up.


This is nice, she said and reached out for his hand.


She felt him tighten then relax in a way Claudia felt was familiar. (For she had known herself to do the same thing before.)


Later they lit a fire and before Claudia could suggest a movie her husband started to cry. Guilt crept up and choked her silent. Immobile she watched him pull himself together.


I have something to tell you, he said


What is it she asked


I’ve been having feelings for someone else he said


An emotion affair, I think.


Oh, was all Claudia could manage.


Because the world we live in is complicated and tiring, Claudia longed to close her eyes and sleep. Because her life was one she had chosen, she stayed awake and tried to forgive herself and them both.

**photo by Christina Preiss**


surviving life on europa



“I’m dying,” he says.


We are all dying. I think but do not speak.


I pick him up from the ground. Broken leaves from the tree he fell out of stick out angrily from his hair as if they are growing from his brain. He bites his lip to help hold back the tears. I am his mother and I must love him but he lashes out at me with fists that strike my flesh. I know I will see the bruises later in the mirror when I brush the leaves out of my own hair.


You are killing us all. I think to myself.


So quiet within my own brain that I imagine it in words, printed out in the smallest type. Possibly they appear in italics just so the thought will takes up less space in my cerebellum. So small and delicate that it looks like this:


You are killing us all


Meanwhile, his brain speaks like neon art splashed across his forehead. His words appear in bold and I follow them across his brow like ticker tape.




How can I help but hear him when he screams at me with mental moonbeams? How can you argue with a seven year old who beats his fists against the wall and then cries for you like you hold his last breath in your arms?


He thinks everything is about him and for the most part he’s right.


When my husband and I fight, I know where our son gets his anger. Later, I brush my teeth and notice my tongue is sore from licking my own wounds. I long for a daughter and imagine she would be able share my grief like they share that lust for bloodshed. We stay together for him but, then again, he is the one who is tearing us apart.


He says these things that are so terrible. My husband whispers to me.


I cannot help but wonder if somehow he can read them off of us. I blame my husband for them and as a result another piece of me turns to ice. I am turning into an island afloat on the Antarctic. No matter how hot it is outside, I wrap myself in blankets and scarves and sweaters to fight the chill that stems from inside. Other times, I am afraid to look at our son as if he is a reflection of myself staring back at me.


I take him to Griffith Park and we hike all the way up to the observatory. He is a bee buzzing his way through the crowds and it takes everything in me to keep him contained while I buy our tickets to the next show. My arms grow tired from the tension they must endure of constantly reaching out like wiry worn tentacles. I see him eye an elderly man in line and watch as that look crosses his face. Before I can worry about what he will say, his mouth opens like the trap I know it to be. His mind so sharp his words are like razors that cut the innocent.


The man smiles (because that is what you do to a child) and exposes his softness. My son’s eyes narrow and he goes in for blood.


Do you think about dying more because you’re old and will probably die soon?


If this were fifty years ago I would be able to smack the smirk from his face but it’s not and we no longer hit our children. I rush him into the show and try and explain how unkind his words are.


But they’re true. Do you want me to lie?


When I was pregnant I dreamed of a clever boy but this is too much. How will I survive the cold waters of Europa?


Later it is time for a nap that will never come, and we are home. The words continue to hurl from his mouth as I empty the dishwasher.


You used to be pretty. He tells me as he picks up a photo from before he was born.


I clutch the Tupperware bowl I was putting away. My thumb digs deep inside the lip of the bowl and I feel the fabric like strands where the plastic has been pulled at by forks that once scrapped the sides, picking up the last bits of leftover comfort. I thank him for the compliment and try not to put emphasis on the past tense.


How is he today? My husband speaks again in a hushed whisper.


There is only enough air in the room for two of us and we look at each other like stranded survivors on a mountain because we are three. Our son is the wind that whips around us in a snowy furry. I wonder which one of us will cannibalize the other in order to survive. Other times I am comforted in the way we still find each other in the middle of the night. Rare moments of limbs entwined we remember how we once loved each other. In the morning glow, that calm lasts like the kiss of a darting tongue, gone before you can realize it was ever there.


I was once a free spirit. I think to myself.


A voice answers. And now you are a prisoner.


How can you blame a child who grew in your belly and taught you how to love only to take it away and use it as a sword with which to make you bleed? I thought love was complicated but had no idea.


Later, I tuck him into bed and wrap my arms around him as I read a story.


I love you, mama. He curls his hand inside mine and I smell his head filled with sweat and sugar and the baby he once was.


I love you, too. I tell him. Because on Jupiter’s moon, it is the deepest truth.


the frog in the pond that overlooks the house

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I am a frog. I am a green frog. I am a green frog with dark green spots. I live in a pond in a field overlooking a house. Or maybe the house overlooks the pond. I’m not really sure which.

There used to be a tree that would give me shade but the man who lives in the house came out one day with his two sons and chopped it down. The sons grew up in the house but I don’t remember them that way. I heard the man talking to himself on the swing that hung from the tree once. He cried a little because he missed them. When his wife called him in he wiped his eyes and pretended he hadn’t been crying.

I don’t know how I came to live in this pond. I think it was before I had memory. Sometimes I think about going to the house but then I get to the edge of the pond and the sounds scare me a little so I hop back down in to the water where it’s safe.

The man’s wife wanted fish so one day the man put fish in the pond. They don’t bother me much. The man does a lot of things the wife wants. Sometimes she comes out to the pond with her sisters. They walk around the pond and the wife tells her sisters with pride about all the things the man does around the house.

I like the man. I don’t know why or how but I do. He comes out to the pond every day. One day the man showed up with a child. She had yellow hair. The man beamed at her and when he smiled, she smiled, and they had the same eyes. They were both the color of the sky.

The man had a net with him and before I knew it the man was reaching out with the net and it caught me. The net was green but not green like I’m green. The net is much brighter and cleaner than me.

The man brought me to the child and as she squealed I could feel her joy as he put me in her hands. They were warm and sticky and felt funny on my skin. She traced a finger along my back. The man told her to be gentle. She listened to the man. It was clear they loved each other.

The man picked me up and dropped me back into the pond. I was happy to be back in my home. I was happy to have been there with the man and the child and their love.

One day the man didn’t come. The wife came to the pond and sat on the ground where the tree had been. She cried and cried and cried until finally one of her sisters came and got her.

I wait for the man every day and night. I miss the man and his sky colored eyes.





Abigail wakes up at 6:29a every morning and listens to the birds twittering outside her window for exactly one minute before her alarm goes off. She walks slowly to the bathroom, her feet moving in the same syncopated rhythm each and every day as they travel from carpet to tile and back to carpet again, resting purposefully on the soft fibers of the ochre bathmat she once bought on sale for $19.99. Abigail is in her bathroom for precisely 25 minutes before emerging fresh faced and ready for her day at Freeman & Baker. (Or as fresh faced as a woman of Abigail’s disposition can be.) It takes only 5 deliberate minutes to choose from the monochromatic selection and Abigail is fully dressed by 7a. She has planned it that way, as she has everything else, for Abigail’s world is one built on structure and complete lack of affectation.


Abigail gets in her car of no specific color or brand and drives the 10.8 miles to work. She does not listen to music as she finds the lack of sound calming. Arriving 15 minutes earlier than her co-workers, Abigail parks in a spot all have declared hers. (More often with a snicker than not.) For Abigail’s co-workers at Freeman & Baker long ago decided that Abigail, in her complete embrace of desolate conformity, is, well, to put it bluntly– a freak. Suzanne in Accounting takes particular glee in commenting on Abigail’s distinct brand of oddness to Dawn, the office manager. She does so under the guise of magnanimous concern while, in reality, its purpose is to put these two women at ease. Keeping the fear of Being Alone (that dreadful beast) as far from them as possible.


Do you think she’s ever had a boyfriend?



(it is here that Dawn exhales with a disparaging sigh)

… it’s not like we haven’t tried.


And with their ritual of judgmental, the two women nod knowingly at each other in remembrance of The Time We Tried To Set Abigail Up With Frank in HR. It had been a disaster from start to finish and even Frank, who had never had an actual date prior to Abigail that didn’t involve some exchange of cash, thought his co-worker to be the coldest of women he had yet to meet.


For what they didn’t realize is that Abigail actually longed for the safety of mediocrity. Somewhere late in her childhood or early in her adulthood (she wasn’t exactly sure when), Abigail became overwhelmed by the weight of expectation she felt to be GREAT. She would lie in bed at night and listen to the soft thumping of time as it beat, beat, BEAT its way through the wires of her clock, the rhythm matching her heart as it increased, speeding up, trying nobly to prevent itself from being crushed underneath all that her parents had placed upon her head… That she, Abigail, would somehow raise them from their own lot in life.


This feeling would follow her home, until finally, the betrayal of loneliness became so great at times that she found herself wanting just that; to be alone.


She had met a man once whose burning memory caused nothing but heartache. She knew she should be happy with someone new but her eyes would dull and her palms sweat until she found herself standing on a corner calling him in the middle of the night.



It didn’t happen quickly but in a slow seeping of the will and desire that finds it’s way through expectations. At first, Abigail thought the anxiety was simply caused by the locations; a soulless bar that touted fresh drinks and stale conversation, a dinner party thrown by a well meaning friend with glossy lips and a finely sharpened tongue who talks incessantly of her successes, a chance encounter on the street where Abigail could find no memory of the person whose hand pressed hard into hers with a hello that begged for recognition. Her eyes wandered more and more and her skin itched to be out, out, OUT of wherever she had found herself. Sometimes she would give them one more laugh, echoing warmly but never truly being a part of her.


Slowly, her friends started to diminish. No confrontations were necessary, just a slow dissolve like aspirin at the bottom of a vase of wilted apology flowers. Abigail slowly adrift, farther and farther away from the social anchors that claim us so early in life.




Abigail finishes her day at 6:00pm and after making a clean sweep of her desk, picks up her things and heads briskly for the elevator that will bring her to the gray lobby and the safety of her aforementioned car. But this would be an afternoon unlike others. For an un-expected obstacle that may make some think of grandiose words such as FATE or DESTINY (while for Abigail they really just give cause for fatigue) was headed towards her with dizzying speed.


For on this particular day of no seeming importance, as Abigail steps into the elevator, it is as if her long slumbering senses have instantly been brought awake with an aromatic kiss of soul recognition. The soap, his skin, the delicate embroidery on the fabric of a memory; her nose had detected him long before her eyes. Afraid to turn, she secretly pleads to herself (for Abigail no longer believes in gods or monsters) that it would not be him.




She turns, pretending for a moment that the recollection is slow to make it’s way across her brain. The old shiver of anxious pleasure fights its way up her spine. She fights it back with all she can muster and it makes its way out as a sort of dry anxious cough. (It was a brave battle she knew she would lose even before it began.) Abigail was clearly out of practice. Abigail breathes in deep and exhales his name.






She quickly leaves the building for her car, her hands trembling ever so slightly.




Abigail had struggled so hard to put childish things behind her– Love, Faith, Soul Mates, and Patterned Tights. (Mythical delights, those patterned stockings.) Discarded the way a child discards Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. She had discarded the want, the desire, the need to stand out that she had been told was her birthright. They had lied or she had failed. She wasn’t sure which. The result had left her adrift, locked in her own consciousness.



I think of you sometimes, he says


Oh, that’s nice


Is it, Abby?


I suppose


Abigail blows softly on her already cold coffee. Arthur, having once known Abigail so well and so intimately (because it is also possible to have one but not the other), knows that he has gotten to her. He decides not to press her but to let it sit there between them- heavy like a molten balloon. It wasn’t so much the sentiment that affects Abigail as she had long since learned to turn that off easily. It is hearing Arthur call her Abby; a name she had so easily shed like dirty clothes at the end of a long day. It is this that strikes a chord long since dusty and, debatably, in need of tuning.


What are you so scared of, Abby?




It is here she pretends not to hear but they both know she understands perfectly.


I said,” what are you so scared of?”


I don’t understand… Nothing I suppose. Do you want me to say everything? Will that somehow make you feel better?


This silences him. Arthur is not a man of confrontation or convictions. In fact, Arthur is aware that may be part of the problem. He knows he made a mistake somewhere but when he thinks on it he really isn’t sure when or how exactly he did it.


While Abigail sits across from this man who once laid claim to her dusty heart, she suddenly feels on the precipice of falling once more, but this time it is not for him but, rather, from him. As if somehow his words, his very being, could force her backwards as she clung to her seat. She imagines it flinging her from this Coffee Shop in a heap of shattered glass.


I really should go. It’s been lovely, Arthur.


Abigail leaves before he can reply; her hands still stinging from the imaginary glass as she passes the window.




Once inside her apartment of order and precision, she locks the door and checks the windows, feeling as if her soul has been broken into.




Abigail wakes up at 6:29. The twittering outside her window seems louder for just a moment but her alarm goes off and she finds her body as her brain hums. Abigail walks to the bathroom, but her feet seem to be moving through sand not her bathmat. Abigail leaves her bathroom but finds she has spent 45 minutes instead of 30. While getting dressed an extra 15 is tacked on to her usual 5 and by the time Abigail leaves her house she is 30 minutes late.


Abigail races the 10.8 miles to work. Suddenly she finds that the lack of sound is anything but calming. Arriving 15 minutes later than her co-workers, Abigail discovers that Suzanne in Accounting has parked in her spot. Suzanne takes particular glee in Abigail’s lateness and makes sure to point it out Dawn who, for a single moment, finds herself feeling concerned before she consciously squashes the thought under the thumb of SUPERIORITY.


She’s late… Shocking. I bet she doesn’t even have a good excuse…


You’re right…

(Dawn exhales with her signature sigh)

… It’s not like she has a life.


But Abigail had once had a life; one that was, it is true, beginning to knock on her windows and break through all her doors.




She begins her day at Freeman & Baker.


Her computer hums and her brain over flows with molecular memory as her fingers touch, softly, to turn her screen on. Her nose suddenly filling with some past smell of designer perfume that once filled her world in a way that was both cloying and comfortable. Her mouth coated with the taste of alcohol as her blood beat with its power.   And smoke. So much smoke that her veins were once like sludge as they brought the nicotine to her brain and back again. She was in a haze and it had been in that haze that she had once thought she had found an anxiety filled type of happiness. A Go-Go fire that raged in her soul that only the next drink could quench. How many mornings had she woken up, her teeth the light purple of a Bordeaux Drunk, her chipped nail polish claiming the same color, emerging only to shudder at the sun but feeling alive, alive, ALIVE.


With a swift shake of her head, she pushes aside the thoughts like strands of hair, cobwebs that bind and reach out.


Abigail reminds herself that Abby is no more.




At 2:17p Abigail sees a foreign email in her inbox. She swears softly under her breath. It takes her exactly 15 minutes before she can steady her pulse. It is only then that she will open it.






Abigail consumes 2 Diet Cokes, thirty-two jellybeans, and an oversized bag of Baked Lays before she responds.


Deep breaths into shallow spaces; her hands shake as she types. Abigail believes that the more you move them the less people notice. What do you do when the thread of your life is pulled revealing how poorly crafted it really is after all?


Abigail leaves Freeman & Baker at 6:17pm and walks a block and a half to the restaurant. She is quite sure that it will be the arduous sort of meeting where they will sit across from each other, the air thick with unanswered meaning that neither of them truly understands with eyes avoiding eyes in the off chance they might connect and teleport vivid flashes of sensual recall.


Abigail fights back the mental yawn that ensues and waits at the bar. As time lapses she is reminded that Arthur is good at grandiose gestures. It’s the little ones like actually being there that he has a harder time with. She orders a sparkling water with extra lemon. The bartender, handsome and blond, barely notices her as he slides the coaster on which her drink is perched towards her. She touches it. Her fingers run cold & slick along the sides.


When Arthur arrives he is all smiles and warm embraces. They take their seat and Abigail wonders what to say to a stranger.


Later, Abigail will wonder if it is scarier to find that you have nothing in common, your link only imagined, your love only a momentary fling? Or is it more frightening to find your connection is greater than you expected. Your lives on tracks so parallel you could not have planned it any better.


In a breath, you can speak soft whispers of what the heart wants and the body needs.


She hears a voice scream out and with a shock she realizes it is only her own mind and only she can hear it.


If I could, I would live this life a second time. Give it a second try. I want to cook for you. Fold your shirts and stack them neatly on your shelf. Rest my hand within yours and make love to you beneath a sierra sky until we’re spent. And, when we’re through, I want to curl up next to you in that pocket of warmth that bounces between us. Forget the world and think of nothing but skin, and touch, and love.


But Abigail is no longer young and she remains silent.


When it is over, they hug and in that hug there is no time, only comfort. Lunar strands of silver drops that stretch from fingertips to arm.   If she could think back on it, she might sigh sexily or squeeze tighter. But at the moment all she can do is live in awe of how good it felt. A morsel.


She remembered the way it felt to hold a hand meant for you. An extension of yourself you no longer knew how long it stretched because it reached another person and the two of you became a continuation. She thought she would never feel that again. But she did. In one moment, she knew.


Abigail will sleep with him again. She quiets the rumbling of Abby and tells herself that it is only logical and not the result of the tremors that still move her like aftershocks. This isn’t some sappy moment where her inner fire is stoked by iron but from Abigail’s cold white passionless flame that burns brightly with her intent to be the moth chewing stoically on the sweater rather than the nocturnal insect dying by the flame.




They would spend one night alone; like Bertolucci’s Lovers they had found themselves, limbs intertwined, locked in an apartment no longer answering to the names that had been given but only to what they called each other and, ultimately, it was the memory of him that would make her cry. Not because she missed him all these years but because of all the lovers she had once had who had left her as he had and how she knew she would leave him. Abigail had fallen like a skidding drunk but not for the reasons one would think. Not for the love or the belief that was resurrected inside of her. After all, they had once made love to Miles, fucked to Prince, and done everything in between that can occur between two bodies of like mind.


Where are you going?


           I’m getting dressed…


(Abigail realizes she had been holding her breath as she inched her way from under Arthur’s limbs)

       You never could stay, could you…


       Arthur, that’s not true…


(Arthur pulls the covers around him and shifts his weight, filling the bed with his body.)


…Sure it is, Abby…


Suddenly the world shifts and the realization hit her. Abigail was not the gazelle but the lion. The words she spoke, so thinly veiled in her mind, becoming algorithms that only she could decipher. Arthur had not rejected her but rather she had spun a maze so convoluted and complex that only the brave could possibly make their way through it all to get to her lair. If they succeeded, she would devour them whole, throwing their bones angrily against the wall as punishment for not having the tenacity to remain in spite of her bottomless appetite. She had built walls so high and then expected them to climb after she threw them down over and over again.


Abigail understood for him she was the flame. And like that it was done. Abigail had always been the one in control.





Abigail wakes up at 6:29am. The birds still sing outside her window brightly as if the world were a picture frame that needs straightening. Her walk to the bathroom is once again the same reassuring rhythm. Abigail emerges 25 minutes later. She is dressed by 7a precisely as she has always planned to be. Structure, that emotionless friend, has been maintained once again.


Abigail gets in her car, driving the 10.8 miles to work with a smile. Calmly, Abigail parks in her spot. Freeman & Baker returns to its safety a building free of unrequited promise.


She smiles at Suzanne in Accounting and nods to Dawn, the office manager. Mouths open slightly in a pantomime of shock, they lean against each other finding comfort in their respective loss of words.



It had been two weeks since Abigail last saw Arthur but it didn’t bother her in the slightest. At 11:42a, she gets up from her desk and stretches like a cat after dozing in the sunlight.


In the bathroom, she looks in the mirror trying to find someone she recognizes. Abigail is caught between the Alice of the looking glass and the little girl by the brook who dreams deliciously of rabbits and queens.


They detected no difference in her. That secret somehow made her feel stronger and gave her strength through out her day.


She knows there are some people who fall in love only in their heads. Living in a world of thought, convinced that the object of their burning mad desire MUST feel the fire that seems to spark between their fingertips. Wayward glances like flint against metal.


It is this Abigail knew she had felt for Arthur. She had known him before they even met. It was how she would keep him now, long after she had left, in her head where she would be safe.

Matisse - Young Woman 1929