Growing up, we would always go to the same Chinese restaurant every single time we visited my mom’s family. I’ve always sort of wondered if it was an “us” thing or a “them” thing: did we go there because the family always went there, or was it just because we were visiting.
That’s not important though. The quality of the food isn’t important (it was good), nor was the atmosphere (surprisingly pleasant for a Chicago suburb). What’s important here are the placemats.
The placemats at Gum Wah were made of paper and they taught me about the Zodiac. They told…
I grew up watching the Simpsons religiously: every Sunday with rapt attention, and even on weeknights in syndication. I took my communion in Buzz Cola and pink-frosted doughnuts. Much like the titular family, I grew up eating from TV trays in front of the almighty boob tube, basking in the soft radiation of its warm, glowing, warming glow.
Robert sat on the edge of his bed. The room was dark, except for a pool of light coming from the old green banker’s lamp on his desk. His hands were folded together in his lap. His head hung forward and his shoulders drooped down. He breathed slow and shallow. Robert had given up.
“I’m sorry,” he breathed, his voice cracking and barely audible over the ever present hum of the furnace in his apartment.
“Why?” asked a voice behind him.
He turned suddenly to see a small boy, maybe ten years old, perched on the pillows at the head…
Barbara Dumbly was no dummy
A brilliant woman, found it not at all funny
that no one trusted a word she said
or the genius thoughts in her head
At math, Barbara was superb.
No equation too hard, she found it absurd
that no one let her tip the waiter.
If they did, they’d check the math later
Ms. Dumbly had a brother, one Roger Dumbly,
not so bright, by profession a rummy.
Yet he was oft praised for wisdom and wit,
despite never being right with any of it
To be taken seriously, she worked so hard.
“I wanted more space. I needed it. Cramped up and crowded, feeling like my head was going to explode, I had to get more space. The thought — just the simple thought — of all those people bustling around as though they have these rich, full lives and places to be, it made me sick.
“I didn’t want to be someone. I never wanted to be famous or to have money. I didn’t even care if people liked me. I just wanted to be left alone. I just wanted more space, you know?”
A gruffer, older man in a matching…
It was cold and loud in the cargo hold of the Greyhound bus. I was not a fan of this predicament as I lay on my back, wedged between a floral printed suitcase and a garbage bag full of smelly clothes, with a book clutched tightly to my chest.
There was precious little room between where I lay and the potholes and bumps on the road beneath; there was precious little room between my head and the metal above.
In short, it was a very uncomfortable way to ride.
The bus rumbled down the highway at what felt like breakneck…
They slept in separate beds in separate rooms in separate houses in the same city, just five blocks away. Separate though they were, He still slept on his right side on the edge of the right side of the bed, facing the bedroom door. She still slept opposite: on the left side of her bed, facing the blank wall. Five blocks of space between them, and they still slept back-to-back. They couldn’t even bring themselves to sleep facing where the other might have been.
Their divorce was not a sad thing. It was a necessary thing that ultimately would go…
An imagined coffee date with an old friend
“I’m not here to stay,” he said a little too quickly, “just visiting.”
“Passing through?” I asked, staring not at him but at the paper cup he held firmly in both hands.
“Yeah, exactly.” He took a sip. The pained look on his face told me his latte was still a little too hot for his tongue. “I just wanted to swing through and see all my old haunts, you know?”
I took a sip of my coffee as I eyed him. When we met at the coffee shop, I thought that…