I’m lying in bed, and this feeling is lurking in my chest, waiting to burst out like an alien.

It reminds me of loss and apprehension and anxiety and fear. It reminds me of all the bad things that have ever happened. It reminds me of the monster under the bed, but inside me.

It isn’t any of these things.

It’s the opposite.

I want to laugh and jump and run and scream and have the best time ever! 

I keep smiling, just a little one, not a huge grin, a toned-down little smirk, but it keeps happening and that just isn’t me.

I feel like I’ve heard a knock on my door, and when I peek out the blinds, I can see the Publishers Clearing House van and the corner of a gigantic cardboard check. Are those made out of cardboard?

I feel like I did when I won the Listserve. I feel famous and gorgeous and brilliant.

I don’t know why. I just do.

I feel like a dog getting excited over a walk. Like life itself is this simple, everyday thing that everyone else is taking for granted but my reaction is to spin in circles and squeal with joy.

So weird.

I feel alive.

Not just living, alive. I can understand why the term applies to electricity.

And it’s nice.

Do regular people feel like this all the time?

For Joy

summer fun YASMIN

jump up in the air
your shadow will follow you
the ground comes quickly

Sierra had been contemplating a collaboration with Mike since those five days in May when he wouldn’t leave her alone about it. “Your words, my pics, it’d be great!” The nostalgia for Mike had somehow crept up on her when she found a single diptych in the back of her portfolio.

Never get involved with a photographer again, she told herself, over and over. She blinked as she remembered a line that she hadn’t read in years: it was a splendid summer morning and it seemed as if nothing could go wrong. That one was from John Cheever, The Common Day.

She huffed. Mike hadn’t been that bad, at least, until the end. Had he? She’d had some good times with him and his old, crazy Irish Wolfhound. There was that time they’d spent the weekend at the lake last winter, two sunsets and one dawn, freezing their butts off while Mike spent ninety percent of his time trying to get just the right shot of a bunch of dead-looking trees. He’d forgotten to bring dog food, but Scooter was happy enough to subsist on premade pb&j’s.

But that summer morning kept coming back to haunt Sierra. Mike had shown up out of the blue, coming to collect a model, but she’d given him the wrong address. Sierra’s address. When she’d tried to explain the mistake to Mike, he’d given her some line. “I believe in luck. How else can you explain the success of those you dislike?” That had charmed the pants right off Sierra, and the next thing she knew, they were naked in her bed, discussing hot dogs and vegans or some other crazy combination of things.

That was almost five years ago, and everything was peaches and cream until Sierra finally read between the lines. For all that time, Mike had been telling her things, like “always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else,” and “you think you’ve flown before, but baby, you ain’t left the ground.” Just these weird little sayings that sounded like quotes, although Mike never, ever attributed any of them.

Sierra knew now that Mike was absolutely full of it. He had a problem, that was for sure; throughout their entire relationship, and probably ever single relationship he’d ever had, he’d been spending every spare moment at one strip club or another. Last night, when she’d tried to relax by drawing a bath, she thought of something as she was wading in through the bubbles. Mike probably didn’t even realize that he’d been giving himself away with his silly quotes.

The last straw had been when he’d actually brought one of them home. Sierra would never be able to read Peter Pan again; the stripper’s name had been Tinker Bell. She hoped Disney would sue the tramp one day. Mike’s excuse had been that he didn’t know Sierra was coming over that night. She hadn’t planned on it, she told him. She wished she hadn’t. And she snatched up her toothbrush and her iPad and left, slamming the door behind her. Mike called four times before Sierra answered to tell him to stop calling. “I’m at the IHOP, and my iPad and I be doin’ just fine.” She didn’t expect Mike to show, and he never did.

She’d sat there with her pancakes and her rage, waiting until it burned all the way down, which turned out to be a surprisingly short time. Sierra hadn’t realized how little she’d actually invested into the relationship until then.

She shook her head to snap herself out of her reverie, and reviewed the haiku she’d jotted on her notepad. Somehow, those seventeen syllables summed up her last relationship perfectly. She could imagine Mike driving tirelessly into the sun, his shadow chasing along behind him, headed for Vegas, where he could find all the strippers he’d ever wanted.

Sierra laughed, crumpled up her poem, and tossed it in the trash with the diptych.


Technical Support

Today my new laptop that my mom got me came in the mail.

It was supposed to come with a year of Microsoft Office 365. One of the first things I noticed when I opened everything up was that the seal was broken on the product key.

Shoulda just packed it up there.

I messed with it for a while before taking my mom to the doctor, and then more when we got home. Ian had enough and called Microsoft. It turns out that yup, my product key was used. That would be why it wouldn’t work. Microsoft said call HP.

Ian called HP.

Keep in mind that I got a lovely little flyer in my package talking up HP’s totes amazing customer support team, who will absolutely do what it takes to fix your problems.

This guy didn’t get the memo. Ian was on the phone with him for a good forty minutes. Nothing was resolved.

Ian called Amazon. He did get another product key, but that one wasn’t any good either. Other than that, there wasn’t anything they could do since I’d already set up the computer.

I called HP. I spent over an hour on the phone, first with a guy who lied to my face (ear?) several times, then his supervisor, then another tech, then another tech. I agreed to let them remote access my  computer to verify the problem.

That was something else. I’ve had tech support look around for stuff before, make mistakes, whatever. No biggie. But I’ve never had one google ‘download product key’ on MY computer. I’ve never had one hover the cursor over Microsoft tech support for long enough to make me believe that he was actually about to open a chat session with them while on the phone with me. Man, oh man. Highly entertaining.

Finally they agreed to escalate my complaint, and told me I’d be receiving a call from a case manager tomorrow.

Hanging Out

Depression is a bitch. 

I didn’t even know it was a bad day when I got up.

I take that back. I had the feeling. I didn’t know it was going to be this bad of a day.

That’s better.

I’m reminded of a post I wrote a long time ago.

It feels like winter; I lie alone in our bed, comforters bunched up at my front and back. I can’t relax in an open bed. I need the reassurance that I won’t fall, that I’m really here, that I am loved and special. And so I turn the surface of the mattress into a nest where I am surrounded by walls of fabric and stuffing. This is enough to protect me from the dangers of the outside world.

It’s still true. It is safer this way. An actual, physical barrier, keeping the bad guys away. It’s not a substantial wall, but it’s real.

It’s scary to open the door, to let myself out onto the floor. Even just to go to the bathroom, to take all the jewelry out of my nose and wad up a tissue to blow into. It’s scary out there.

It’s safe in here. I have three screens in here with me, safe within the walls; iPhone, Kindle, and Toshiba, in order of increasing size. I worked on some of my ghostwriting because I should have been done two days ago.

I haven’t finished.

I read some. I finished a book I started last week. I started another. 

I checked Facebook.

I played musical pillows.

I cried.

It felt like Mission:Impossible to go all the way to the dining room for Toshiba. Somehow I survived.

Somehow I always survive.

But it’s easier when I can just hang out in my nest in my bed.


A Puncture From A Puncture

The day was long; the road was longer. When Karen scanned the horizon, she though to herself maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Her hair was blowing in the hot desert wind, but a chill went down her spine nonetheless.

Anyone could be out there. Anyone at all. Waiting. Watching.

She pulled her feet back into the car.

Timothy white knuckled the steering wheel, keeping his eyes on the road just ahead of them. He briefly let go to reach for the radio dial, but a news story stopped him.

“Anyone on Highway 51 should be aware of the escaped convict last seen in the area. Don’t stop for anyone. This man is highly dangerous, and has murdered–”

Timothy turned the radio off.

Karen looked to him, fear in her eyes. “We’re on 51, aren’t we?”

Timothy gave a slight nod. “We are, but we’ll have no need to stop, so nothing to worry about.”

They should have finished listening to the bulletin. Timothy struggled with his grip on the wheel as the car veered suddenly to the left, as a tire had just burst and given them a reason to stop.

He tried to reassure Karen that he could change it in minutes, but she gasped and put her hand to her mouth when he pulled the spare from the trunk. It was flat.

“How could this happen? Why didn’t you check the spare?” Karen screamed, her eyes flitting back and forth across the empty plain, searching in vain for something to focus on.

Timothy closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then reached out a hand to steady his girl.

“We’ll be fine. If there’s a wanted man on the loose, the sheriff will be by shortly. We’ll be fine.” He may have been reassuring himself more than Karen.

She caught the uneasy look in his eye as they re-entered their car, locking the doors behind them.

When the sheriff pulled over behind the car, twenty-three minutes later, her blood was still dripping from her outstretched fingers.

Timothy was never found.

A rewrite of this for that.

The Great Race Debate

And now, the story you’ve all been waiting for! Drumroll, please.

Okay. Wednesday night Ian and I went to our first meeting of a local philosophical discussion group that we joined on Facebook because a good friend of ours started it.

And after that meeting, a nice, comfortable, whiny, she started it would be completely welcome.

This was only the second meeting, and the topic was Racism.

So we made it there, to the fancy private college, noted the five other vehicles in the parking lot, and went inside. When we found out that we had to go upstairs, that was it. I sent an apologetic text to our friend, and we called it a night.

Seriously, though, we went up, found the room, and smiled vaguely at the six other people already seated. Ian was amused on our way there because the Facebook page was blowing up with cancellations. Originally, 29 people had RSVP’d in the affirmative; we finished the count at 14. Five black, nine white.

Anyway, a few minutes after our scheduled start time, one of the two facilitators decided that it was time to begin. We went around the room introducing ourselves. I said I was a writer, just here for fodder. They didn’t know I meant it.

Just as we finished, a pair of black men came in and sat down. One wielded a huge, ancient dictionary like a weapon and wore a black leather satchel, knitted African cap, and beaded bracelet. If his dictionary had pictures in it, he would have been found under stereotypical activist. The other turned out to be a city councilman. They introduced themselves.

Unfortunately, this pair missed the part at the very beginning when the facilitator explained that we weren’t here to solve anything, simply to have a frank discussion. Although, in hindsight, that point may have been completely unfathomable to them.

We then sat through nearly two hours of lecture, as the latecomers monopolized the ‘discussion.’ It was extremely difficult for anyone to get a word in edgewise, even when either of the two asked questions and seemed to expect everyone else to answer.

I did learn a treasure of a phrase, though: at one point, the city councilman was complaining about all the small towns cropping up around the fringes of the big city that we were meeting in, promoting white separatism, and a fellow attendee talked about one neighborhood that was planning to make their own little shit city. Those were actually the only two words I wrote down on my note-taking paper. Priceless, right?

The dictionary-carrier read us the definitions of race, racism, and black man. He repeatedly expressed that this, hefting the dictionary, was where the real meanings of words could be found, not in the interpretations of any person or group. I could feel our friend, the linguist, bristling beside me. He also passed out year-old flyers about a celebration of the real founder of the city, a black man. I seem to have misplaced my DeLorean, so I can’t attend a party in 2014, thanks.


My own apathy towards knowing the history of the area I live in set off a chain of questions in my head: does it really matter who signed the paperwork to incorporate what was once just another shit city? How many people alive now dwell in the same area that their ancestors unto the umpteenth generation did? Is that number really high enough to matter? Why take pride in something someone who died so long ago did? It’s not like he invented gravity or the printing press or glitter adhesive. Note it in the historical archives if you need to stave off your own fear of immortality, but a massive celebration for a dead guy who hasn’t done anything for me? I’ll take a pass.

It’s the same reason I don’t care one way or the other about the great Confederate flag debate going on right now–I’m only a second-generation American. My father was the first person in my family born in America, and that was in New Jersey. I’d never even heard of this place, where I’ve spent most of my life, until my mother was accepted at the medical school here when I was eleven. I’m a Southerner, born and raised, but I have absolutely no familial Southern history beyond my own birth here. I just don’t have a stake in it.

And yet. I do understand the choice made to identify with one or the other of one’s ethnic background; I call myself Lithuanian, when I could as easily be Latvian. But both of those are from my father; my mother’s family are longtime Americans. I sometimes think that has much to do with my maiden name.


The only other person to get a decent portion of attention was a self-proclaimed historian. He took over toward the end to read from some articles he’d printed out from the internet. He said he would sum up, but he read almost the entire thing aloud.

Did you know that the pineal gland is calcified in white people? As we were told many, many times, you can do your own research. I did not; I was hard pressed to stifle my laughter at his repeated mispronunciations.

But the best part was when he started to explain the evil side of fluoride. The problem with water fluoridation is that the purpose is governmental mind control. Obviously. But do you know how it works? When you combine fluorine with sodium, you get an incredibly toxic mixture that decreases the IQ of black men by 21% and black women by 17%. It also makes them docile and easily influenced. It attacks black people because only they have melanin. Or melatonin, He switched it up a couple times. The amount of fluoride that is put in our local water supply–

Our friend interjected. She had done research in this area because she went to college with someone who was also rabidly anti-fluoride. No matter how many times she tried to point out that our water here is so high in fluoride naturally we actually remove some, she was wrong. But of course, you can do your own research.

The real gem is that we had an honest-to-goodness chemist in our midst. For such a small sampling, we certainly had an eclectic and varied mixture of people. Wouldn’t you know it, this chemist’s job was to make–wait for it–fluoride. He was shut down when he said it wasn’t toxic. Ah, well.

We wrapped it up with a few shouted suggestions for next month’s topic: guns, reproductive rights, cultural appropriation, media, and euthanasia. We haven’t come to a decision on that yet.

Afterwards, six of us went for drinks and a snack. We were all agreed in our perception that the meeting would have gone better without the lectures, but it was still generally entertaining.

And our friend plugged my book, so that was nice.


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