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the long way around

The living room is a forest of mic stands and cables. A cup of coffee, a large glass of water and a shallow shot of whiskey sit on the tiny white table. I alternate between them, making sure the guitar is in tune, trying to understand if the chair will creak when I lean my head back on the second chorus.  There is a hush in the room. I can hear my own heartbeat. The lyrics are printed out on a fresh piece of paper, large and thick so I can read them easily even though I sing with my eyes closed and will surely forget a handful of words no matter what I do.

The guitar sounds dry, perfect - even honest. I can play a simple D chord with a long strum, or the side of my thumb and it sounds so different. I record a few takes, barefoot in the bright room. I am going too fast in some parts, and my fingers are already sore from the chord changes.

And then all at once, I am thinking of a show I played in an old factory in Brooklyn, way back when I had just started writing songs almost twenty y…

the playground

E comes home from school on Friday, and her normal smile of relief is not there. She is usually out of her school clothes in minutes, curled on the couch asking me what we are having for lunch. Today, she stands in the dark corridor, her shoulders hanging low. Her mouth opens, closes, nothing coming out. I ask her what happened.
"A boy, a boy from our school." She begins. "He died."
"How?" I ask. 
"There was a man in the playground, he gave him some gum and it had poison on it." She explains.
Her mouth twists around. 
"You knew him?" I ask. "What grade was he in?"
She nods once. 
"Seventh." She says at one point.
E leans against me for a bit. I rest a hand on the small of her back. 

Later, we will talk, as I make sure she knows not to take anything from anyone but of course she knows that but I say it anyway. There are calls to find out more about what happened, what there is to know. It turns out that none of this is on the news, that there is no police investigation, no hovering presence of guards on the school playground although there are hordes of them in the metro. The mothers are all sharing information, talking in private secure chats. But there is no official statement. 

The boy died and nothing changes. 

Nothing will happen except for stern words from parents to their children. There is talk that there is a gang behind these acts, that they have been doing this all over the city. But there is nothing in the news about it. Well, the news stopped being the news a few years ago. 

E is processing things. There are no tears, no nightmares. I wonder if living here has insulated her, or worn her down until she simply accepts whatever random act she is presented with as inevitable. 









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