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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

after the storm


The doors in the apartment are slamming shut from phantom hands. The sky goes dark, from that Spring pale blue to something green, even purple. Rain smacks against dirty windows. The trees outside, freshly green are bending hard. A wind whips through the city, triggering car alarms. The trees pull and bend, their arms wild, like they are underwater. I realize the window on the balcony is open. It is already flooding when I close it. The window in the bedroom is the same, a cold puddle on the floor.

Now everything is closed, and the wind whistles through the cracks. Roofs are ripping from the tops of low houses. Trees are falling. Traffic lights lean and then tip over onto the sidewalk. Metal signs fly from old hinges, slicing into traffic.

Ten people died that day, many wounded, tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

Later, the sound of chainsaws hum from downstairs. They chop the fallen trees into random pieces, and leave them there. The piles of wet leaves and branches begin to rot in the hot sun that follows. Roots hang upside-down, as dirt-clodded mouths hang open. A black Mercedes splashes through the puddles. Children play in a sandbox, wearing ski hats and down vests.

At night, the wind picks up again. A few days later there is a tornado in another part of the country.

I think to take pictures of the remains of the trees. There is a broken piece of sidewalk I shoot and an old woman passes, eyeing me like I am a cold war spy caught in the act.
"And then what is going to happen?" She asks me, a jab, an accusation.

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