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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 …

a visitor


I am in the living room, long dark with just the lamp and the light from the screens. The work goes well, and I am firing on most cylinders. I do not realize what time it is, just know there is laughter and tiny shouts from the kitchen, the gentle mayhem of the three women under our roof. I am obsessed over an edit, playing the sequence down staring close, leaning back, nudging one frame in, one frame out, alternating takes, overlapping sound. Maybe it is fine, but I have stared at it too long to really know that.

I ask myself what kind to music needs to come next. Something hesitating. I tap my fingers on the thick glass of the desk, thinking about how slow it should be. My stomach growls. I probably need to start dinner soon.

And then I look up and V is in the doorway to the living room, on her hands and knees. She has crawled all the way from the bedroom. Her chin is up, head titling back, staring at me with giant eyes N is hunched down behind her, holding her steady. V grins wildly, one of her sweet shrieks bouncing around the big room. I am outside myself. Suddenly standing and swooping down to pick her up, and then there is a stretch of time playing on the bed, stacking the rainbow rings on the yellow cone, putting toys on my head for her to retrieve and there is no thought in my mind, not of war, or the crumbling economy, not of racism or cops killing unarmed men, not of fake food or new diseases, not of warm oceans and dying fish. There is nothing but this bed, no looming elections, just the round face looking up at me, crawling, smashing headfirst into pillows and her muffled laughter.





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