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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…

faces (a flood)


Long before the sun came up, there was the pinging sound of rain slapping against the aluminum siding on the balcony. Hollow and soprano, it woke me. I lean against walls as balance returns, making my way to get a glass of water seeing my face for a moment in the bathroom mirror and I do not recognize it. I know it is me, the dark circles under the eyes, the fringe of hair around the ears, the grey hairs sprouting in-between the black but for some time now I have not felt like that face. It is foreign to me, a shadow, an imagined person. It is not something to struggle with, but simply something to ignore. I know the sound of my laugh. I know the sound of my voice late at night in the kitchen with a drink in one hand, swirling the ice cubes as they wither. That is who I am.

V is sticking her hands through these stacking rings while sitting on my belly, and some are too small for her to squeeze into. I try to tell her that she grew, that she got bigger. She looks at me, chewing on this, the ideas turning around in her little mind. She sticks her hand into the biggest one, the green one. She brandishes it in the air like a trophy, her improvised bracelet. She laughs with such satisfaction, "Woho." 

In the kitchen, N is scraping a quail's egg through a sieve as part of V's breakfast. Her hair has gotten long, and strands fall into her face which she blows at from the side of her mouth. She had hair a bit like this when we met, when her face was rounder, when she was nervous and shy, biting her lip, waving her hands in the air with a library of bracelets dancing around them. Now she is my sharp-tongued wife, somehow taller and more beautiful, the confident mother, her head-tipped back laugh more like a swan than a person when I buy pants the wrong size, or when I throw out a blanket by accident. I like how her face changes. 

Eventually E wakes up, her hair smashed down like a paint brush left at the bottom of a cup overnight. She plays with V, stares into the fridge and takes nothing out, wanders in and out for some time until actually eating anything. She finally lost one of her front teeth, a few years too late. I like when her smile flashes and I see that gap, even though I know she is embarrassed. There is nothing like seeing your child's broken, messy smile. 

The rain is hammering into the trees. The streets are flooded. The center is closed and we will not go out to dinner tonight, even if it is my birthday. I head out with E in our long boots by afternoon, the sidewalk a low river for the first ten minutes. A tree has fallen across the path and we climb over it. And then, a bouquet of wildflowers rests on a low fence, as if someone abandoned them at the sight of the tree. I stare at them, entertaining the reasons behind them, imagining what drama unfolded to create such an odd result. I look around, and no one is stalking off, no one is crying or looking over their shoulder. Cold rain seeps down the back of my neck and we head towards the main road, where the bus will come and splash high above the giant puddles, bringing us to the market where I can buy pumpkin and fresh thyme, semolina flour and a good bottle of wine for dinner. 








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