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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

white nights and no place to go


The nights are bright, and cold. The drapes flip around like the ocean, drifting in and out of the windows and door frames. Trees bend heavily in a strong wind, brushing against the balcony sometimes like an intruder scratching on the glass. The rooms are fresh and clean, but the walls are somehow closing in on us. We are at the threshold of full-on summer, and we will walk these rooms until school starts.

Everyone is away, or about to be away on beaches and boats, waking up in unfamiliar beds. Summer holidays, a guaranteed trip to somewhere, if only to a shed in the woods surrounded by mosquitoes. No, we are here and the wind is blowing harder. E is asleep, her feet wrapped tight with her red blanket, arms crossed underneath, just her face poking out. N and V are in the big bed, the one that I fixed from squeaking last week. I see her tiny hand in the air, moving as she dreams some impossible baby dream. N, her glasses falling from her face but I will leave them there because if I try to take them all the way off she may wake up.

I pour myself the last of some ancient, dusty bottle of bourbon over a few ice cubes. They hiss and click in the glass until they find some sort of order.

There is a stack of pages to edit, pages I have avoided reading for more than two years now. The fountain pen is there, full and ready. I am lost between hope and fear about what lives there, if changing the names will make any difference. I have wrapped this book as tightly around myself as E does with that red blanket. I wonder if there is any breath left in it, any sparks or fireworks, any electric jolts.



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