Forgetting

Forgetting

You know how you find yourself in the kitchen and you can’t remember what you’re doing there so maybe you put your hands on the cold sink and look out the window but it doesn’t help? What works is to go back to the living room, sit down again on the chair you got up...
What I Took

What I Took

From my mother’s house, in 1982, when I left for college—for good: her prized crimson cashmere sweater, which she never wore (Orlando, average temperature in January: 70 degrees Fahrenheit), the most collegiate item in our house, which I washed in warm water, which turned my t-shirts, sheets, and underwear pink, all of which I put...
Glossary of Chain Accidents

Glossary of Chain Accidents

Because I used to stare at Mendy Frankl’s Adonis curls in statistics, because I had a pair of silver boots from Baker’s I got on clearance for $14.99 and Sharpied them to near-extinction, because I dreamed of being the kind of girl who had a red high heel on the end of a keychain, as...
Senior Moments

Senior Moments

Heavy double doors slowly swing open. A tall old man in a hospital johnny, stooped and gnarled, wanders the long hallway. My mother, half his height, pastel scrubs and permed hair, pulls me past him. “Sit in the day room with the residents. I’ve got to get to work.” Where my mother works, I follow....
Siberia, Atlanta

Siberia, Atlanta

When I tell you that my mother’s father was born in a Siberian prison, I’ll remind you that was because his parents were perhaps exiled as retribution for political acts. Or simply because they were Jews. He, however, was a baby. Some of what I will tell you is true. Were they Jews? Yes. But...
When a 17-Year-Old Checkout Clerk in Small Town Michigan Hits on Me, I Think about the Girl I Loved at 17

When a 17-Year-Old Checkout Clerk in Small Town Michigan Hits on Me, I Think about the Girl I Loved at 17

When it opened in 1908, The New York Times called the PATH train one of the greatest engineering feats that has ever been accomplished: perhaps greater than, they noted, the ongoing Panama Canal project, which wouldn’t be up and running for six more years. Spanning only three and a half miles, the PATH train from...
There But for the Grace of God

There But for the Grace of God

In the country of my mother’s birth, miracles and sloths keep to themselves. In the weeks I spend looking for some sign of her, the rain persists with its genius for mud and birdless afternoons. Butterflies, people said. Ladybugs, people said. Songbirds, they all said. My mother would come back from the dead as something...
Hoot

Hoot

1. She titled it “Autumn Beauty.” Three crimson maple leaves hang from slender, silvery branches, backgrounded by a watery swirl of teal, lime, burnt umber, and gold. A quiet peacefulness balances the bold beauty of the leaves. The painting was her favorite, and she brought it “just to show” when she and my dad came...
Jack Ruby’s .38 Colt Cobra

Jack Ruby’s .38 Colt Cobra

Because even after you put death aside—keeping in your sights not Oswald’s ruptured gut, but the very idea of the gun beginning to grow, becoming a new kind of try-me, a sure bet he could grip, strap to his thigh, flaunt to protect the earnings of his half-assed strippers and ventriloquist acts and hustled bottles...
At My School

At My School

The bathroom walls are a battle. Between dissent and Magic Erasers, between wrath and paint, between the kids and the janitors. I sit on the toilet and read—about the protests back in November, about the institution protecting rapists, about Chance the Rapper, about which Instagram accounts to follow, about whether or not Jeff Sessions is...
Turn, Bend, and Spread

Turn, Bend, and Spread

The officer yells, Next! I unbutton my shirt as I walk. The officer follows me into a stall and yanks the rubber curtain behind him. Shower rings screech against metal; the curtain barely moves. I don’t care. There’s no privacy anyway: two men in a cinder block booth. Shoes. I take off my prison-issue sneakers....
The Shape of Emptiness

The Shape of Emptiness

His mother dies three weeks before the end of the quarter. A boy, a good student: he emails me to tell me the news, asks permission to be absent. Of course, I say, take as much time as you need. I tell him he can withdraw, take an incomplete, but he promises to be back...
Invisible Partners

Invisible Partners

On my mother’s refrigerator in Chiang Mai, Thailand, are pictures from my high school dances in Chicago, when we lived in bi-level as a happy immigrant family—Homecoming, the Sweetheart’s Dance, Prom. There are so many photos of me you can barely see the surface of the fridge, just a hundred smiling faces of Ira with...
Good Faith

Good Faith

A house wren is making a nest in the wreath on our front door. When my wife and I want to go out on the porch, we make sure to knock on the inside of the door just in case the wren is there—just a little knock to warn her. We’re only six months married,...
The Ten-Year Wake

The Ten-Year Wake

I sit in a rental car in an office parking lot in Atlanta watching for a blue Pathfinder, the car my former therapist, Randy, drives. I glance at my watch. He’s late. It’s 10:15 a.m., Friday, May 13, 2005. I stopped seeing him regularly when I moved to Michigan several years ago. Maybe he drives...
Anniversary Disease

Anniversary Disease

Every day is the anniversary of something. May 26th is the anniversary of my mom pulling out half her hair while giving birth to me. It is also the anniversary of the public hanging of Alse Young, the first person executed for witchcraft in the American colonies. May 27th is the anniversary of my unquenchable...
The Birthday Place

The Birthday Place

“You know, Mother, today is my birthday.” I have reported this three times in the past hour. Across the room, on the sofa where she leans beside my father, Mother smiles. “That’s wonderful, dear.” The dear is generic, a term she employs when she forgets who I am. “And where is your birthday place?” “You...
Wishbone

Wishbone

We traveled cross-country by car every year. From New York to Utah, from Utah back to upstate New York. Every summer, the drive took days, endless scorching hot summer days. Our mother made sandwiches before we left and put them in an icebox underneath our feet. She placed a large round thermos with lemonade in...