The Dozens

The man at the door was new, a beefier version of the last guy, and the guy before him, but in every essential way he was the same: same broad shoulders, same blank look on his face, same everything. Which was both comforting and unsettling at the same time. Claire could imagine him doing unspeakable things in the dark, when he wasn’t at the nightclub door.

“ID?” he asked.

She was wearing her short black skirt, with the wraparound waist that showed pretty much all of her legs, a new, thin red blouse, and matching lipstick. When she looked in the mirror, Claire often saw a mature woman looking back at her, even though she was only sixteen. It wasn’t her first time being asked for ID, but it was the first in a while, and she frowned before fishing in her purse.

“Here,” she said, slipping the man at the door her fake Delaware ID. That was the trick, of course, a close enough state but probably not one he’d seen often, if at all. She smiled up at him expectantly, like she had done this a dozen times before. She had done this a dozen times before.

“Go on through,” he told her, handing back her ID with a smirk on his face that said he knew more than he was letting on.

She didn’t care. She was in. Claire hitched up her skirt, as a sort of thank you, and eased inside like she’d done it a dozen times before. It was easier to blend in, to be one of the sweaty masses, than it was pretending day after day in school, and with her mom, and everywhere in between.

“Want to dance?” a guy asked her seconds after she entered. Continue reading “The Dozens”

Clip-Ons and Half-Smiles

My mom never took pictures of me on the first day of school. I think it’s because she realized I looked no different then than any other time in my life. Okay, maybe I had a cleaner, ironed shirt on, but we all knew it would be rumpled fifteen minutes into the school year. So, why front?

It’s like when we had school picture day. Sure, I wore a tie most of the time, and a sweater to cover up the fact of no tie at other times, but generally I had on a collared shirt. That was fancy back then (at least when I wasn’t in church). I only knew it was school picture day because the clip-on would be lying on my bed when I got out of the shower.

It was like Santa had placed it there.

Sometimes I wish they had clip-on ties for adults. Don’t tell me they have them. You will ruin my dream. It’s the dream that sustains me, after all, the illusion that they don’t exist. If you tell me they do, then I’ll have to subscribe to a new illusion. Like when I found out about the Tooth Fairy.

So, I would clip on that tie, adjust it to hide the fact it was a clip-on, and I’d smile for the man, or the woman, who stood behind the camera with a chipmunk grin. Continue reading “Clip-Ons and Half-Smiles”

Bridge Diving

Sometimes, when I pass a bridge, I slow down. I ease back on the throttle. I turn down the music, straining to hear the haunting melody of the river below, as it lulls me into both a complacency and an urgency in the same moment. I imagine what it would be like if I jumped, if I tumbled head over feet into the abyss, if I would survive. If I would even want to, at least in that moment anyway.

Then the moment passes.

But I’m somehow changed by it, transformed in that instant when anything was possible, when I was capable of doing that thing. I tell myself it was never real, though, that I never slowed down, that I never imagined myself, arms raised out wide, staring off into the never ending blue, or brown, or gray water below before letting go. It’s so real, though, this feeling when it comes, so overwhelming at times that I have to remember to breathe, to drag one breath at a time through my lungs.

Sometimes, it scares me.

Who am I kidding? It always scares me, when it happens, when I think for a second that I could be able to do something so drastic, so permanent, so astoundingly perfect in that instant. I always snap out of it, though, the road dragging me back, the gas pedal calling me back home, or to work, or to get pizza on a Thursday night. There are too many bridges around here. I’ve never really consciously noticed before, but they’re everywhere.

Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like if I could find a path where there are no bridges, where life doesn’t hang by a thread, even if it’s just in my momentary daydreams. Continue reading “Bridge Diving”

The Switch

“Who names their band Tool?” David asked from his perch on the back of the couch. I’d told him sixty-four times not to sit there.

“Apparently Maynard Keenan,” I said, smiling. I shooed him from the couch, which was really no worse for wear. David plopped down next to me instead. Apparently our conversation wasn’t over.

We did the dance often, the questions, the answers, and the switch. Sometimes he would ask, sometimes I would, but we would always end up where we started, at him rolling his eyes. Often the questions were easy ones, but every once in a while he threw me a curveball.

“Where do babies come from?” he asked last night. I pretended not to hear him. “Where do babies come from?” he repeated, louder. David’s ten, and can outlast a zombie in who can stare the longest without blinking.

“Well, they come from pockets in trees, like baby kangaroos in pouches,” I said. “When mommies and daddies go hiking in the forest, they can take them out and name them whatever they want. Once the babies have names, they belong to the mommies and daddies. Before they have names, they still belong to the trees.”

He pondered the idea of arboreal humanoids, but shook his head slowly after a minute.

“No. Way,” he said. “Trees are too rough. The bark would hurt the babies.”

“That’s what sap is for,” I told him. “It keeps them warm and protects them from the rough bark.” Continue reading “The Switch”

Like Sunday Morning

I have always loved Sunday. It’s the first day of the calendar week, but it doesn’t have the stigma of Monday. It’s the last day of the weekend, but for most of the day it can be easy to forget that and just go with the flow.

It has long been a day when things get done, at least for me. I write on Sunday, I clean on Sunday, I read on Sunday, and I listen to music pretty much all day on Sunday. So, it sounds like total love, doesn’t it?

The problem is that Sunday, like all days, can be separated into three distinct time periods: morning, afternoon, and evening. And, while morning and afternoon are absolutely masterpieces, evening is where everything tends to fall apart.

It’s not that I’m anxious about returning to work, either. There’s just something to be said for time that is relatively free of schedules. There’s a peace to be had when you can look at the clock and know this is time you can do pretty much what you please, within reason. (But, believe me, sometimes I want to do things with that time that aren’t within reason. Thank god I have that little angel on my shoulder.)

These Sundays I can often be found in my study, with at least one shade open (so I can see outside but I don’t have to be outside) and Microsoft Word open, the words filling the screen like soldiers marching in formation.

Right now, Florence + the Machine is serenading me with “Make Up Your Mind,” and I’m smiling, because this is where it’s at. Sunday morning, with the music flowing, with the words dancing, that’s my happy place. Continue reading “Like Sunday Morning”

Historical Significance

The stale air hits me like a slap to the face: soupy, syrupy, strained like carrots in a baby food jar. I stand in the opening, both ready to step out onto the smoking sidewalk and to scramble back into the air conditioned solace of the building, stark choices on a stark day. The crowd makes the choice for me, however, shoving me unceremoniously out into the reality of a heatwave I wish had waited a week to arrive. I stumble into the blazing sunshine, suddenly sweaty with a perspiration that springs to my forehead, and cheeks, and everywhere else all at once. 

“Is that the Liberty Bell?” Alexa asks, inquisitive as always. She doesn’t complain about the heat because I’m not sure she feels it. Oh, the joys of youth.

“That’s the building that houses the Liberty Bell, yes,” I tell her, nodding my head in the general direction of the structure itself, but she has stopped listening. Because, while this is a part of history, it’s not a part of her personal one, so to her it’s just one more thing she has to look at, that someone told her was special.

“And that’s Independence Hall,” I continue, pointing far out across the expanse of grass that separates the Liberty Bell building from the old Pennsylvania State House.

“How come the Liberty Bell isn’t up in Independence Hall?” asks Alexa, who appears to be listening to me again. I can never tell, except for when she opens her mouth.

“Why, because it’s cracked,” I say, but she doesn’t laugh, though I think my joke is funny. “They can’t very well ring a cracked bell,” I add. She still doesn’t laugh. Continue reading “Historical Significance”

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