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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…

coney island baby (licorice and Hershey bars)




E's favorite was Coney Island. We took the D train, and when it lurched from the underground tunnel and began rattling over the buildings, she stared at everything. Miles of graffiti, stretches of forgotten furniture, signs for tire fix places. This was a scene for Blackbetty, which I had hoped for but was ready to surrender if she could not travel. I had seen her face, chin resting on the cold glass so long ago. The sun is out today and giant flares dance around the lens as we splash in and out of shadow.

And then, the ocean stands in front of us and her walk becomes a run. She dances, arms flapping like one of the gulls and she is right on the water's edge. Feet soaking wet, the waves surging around her she turns and smiles at me. I cannot remember her this happy.

Shells and bits of ocean glass are studied and collected.
"Look Pop, part of a crab!" She shouts at me, pointing at a stray blue claw.

The wind whips up, blowing sand into out eyes.

My film falls together, like some sort of prophecy coming to fruition.


The next days churn into one, and we are already on that cab ride to the airport, weighed down with strawberry licorice and Hershey bars. We sleep the whole way home.

Moscow is cold, great drifts of snow already turning grey and brown from truck exhaust.

Her head leans against my shoulder.



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