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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

the red cup

The sky is not fully dark at seven now. Hard clouds are coughing from double smokestacks past the river. The cat tries to knock me over, starving in the cold morning air. E is asleep in a perfect cocoon of cartoon sheets, clutching a stuffed dog named Katya.

I make coffee without turning the kitchen light on. The cat eats noisily as I wait for the familiar, hoarse voice of the little moka. I put sugar at the bottom of the cup, and don't mind it's not clean.

I splash milk in, and sit on the window's edge, looking down at the covered fountain in the center of the courtyard. As I drink from the cup, I smell something unfamiliar. I touch my fingers to my nose for a moment - and realize this cup was used on Saturday for our little dinner party. New friends had visited, with a daughter to play with E, and fresh pastries, with a bottle of red wine and the bread I had forgotten to buy, with an unattached woman.

It was her perfume on my red coffee cup, a sort of gift she had left behind. I closed my eyes, imagining her hands resting on the table, how she hid behind her hair, her chin pinned to her chest.

Breathing in her perfume, I drank in the morning light and the sweet coffee and smiled to myself.

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