Breadcrumb #469

ASPEN JUNE

After the ceremony he takes you out on his boat. His grad students are there too, leaning their beautiful bodies against the rails, wetsuits folded down at the waist. Strapping themselves into equipment like they know how to keep themselves alive under a hundred feet of water.

Luckily you are the only person on this boat who can drink this good champagne because you are the only one not planning to increase the pressure inside your body till your blood wants to bubble in its veins.

He handed you his award to hold while he’s diving. It’s just a ceramic disk on a ribbon striped like the flag. You could have bought it at a party store, or at least a good mimic. The edge of the ribbon is making your wrist itchy where you’ve wrapped it.

It’s just a ceramic disk on a ribbon striped like the flag.

You lean your elbows on the railing. It’s just windy enough to pull bits of the dark surface up into foam. You’d never get into it like he does, like his students. They go under like they’ve been fantasizing about that cold wet on their thighs.

The water looks at you like it expects something from you. You are wondering what he’s been giving it when he goes down and kisses its floor. Why does it think it can keep him?

You have to do this thing to get him back and you don’t need anyone to tell you. He’s not the only one who can know secret things about the ocean.

You set the champagne glass down by your feet and unwind the ribbon from your wrist. It falls fast but there is a moment when the ribbon spreads itself out on the water before the disk pulls it under.

But you have saved him, look, there he is, rising from the water, pulling up his mask, laughing.

• • •

Breadcrumb #457

KHAHOLI BAILEY

Growing up, I used to cry for things that never happened: my brother’s death, the day we go homeless, a doctor’s sigh before revealing a devastating diagnosis. I would cry and cry and feel like I was standing on a pedestal in the center of a windy abyss. I would fold those feelings somewhere deep in my mind, tight and complicated like origami, so that when I open up I am prone to bending in the same directions over and over again. But on the bright side, if any of those atrocities do happen, I will have had deft practice in the ways of suffering.

My pediatrician called it anxiety. That wasn’t the evolutionary diagnosis I’d been waiting for, so I kept on making up things to cry about.

                                  *

As a teenager I would lay awake and fantasize about my pending adulthood. I would imagine myself in the clothes of a woman, only overdone or underdressed like a girl’s fantasy.  I would be walking in stilettos down a Manhattan street and hear the train rattle underneath the sidewalk grail. Against my better judgement, I’d be off to a sprint. People start staring at me and in the way my uncle warned me about. Don’t fall, they’d say with their eyes, don’t ruin it for us. Miss the train by a margin of a second so that it’s wind can blow up your skirt they way we know you hoped it would. But I never make it to my Monroe moment. I’d feel all the faces upon me, closer and closer like an elbow-throwing rush hour crowd. Their attention deadens  my own and I fumble: I’d trip on my heel, silly little girl that I was, and nosedive into the pavement so violently that I couldn’t bear to end it with an image. Just cut to black and I’d be back in my bed, staring at an arthritic tree outside my window.

My friends called it normal, so I kept on fantasizing about patent leather pumps and planned how I would face an embarrassing death with dignity.

                                    *

In my 20s I had dreams of food stamps. I would sit on the sofa, lopsided as it was with the bent mattress springs underneath, and eat oatmeal from a plate. In my mind I was strolling the wide aisles of Costco, picking up king crab legs and organic grapes and mini cinnamon rolls to impress my guests. I would eat like a queen because I was a pauper.  I’d tell my son to bow his head before his meal and thank the state of New York.

My application was denied and the fantasies ceased. My oatmeal diet didn’t. My doctor told me it wasn't normal to cry for things that happen and gave me a prescription for Xanax.

• • •

Breadcrumb #448

JOANNA BETTELHEIM

At eight years old at ten a.m. on a Saturday morning, Stephanie slathers strawberry jam on her toast. Strawberry is her favorite, thickly frosting every whole-wheat bite. She kicks her feet under her, sitting high at the kitchen counter.

    Before she can retrieve another loaded knife full, her grandmother reaches out and pulls the jar away. “You don’t want to be turned into marmalade, do you?” Stephanie’s knife remains poised in the air, glistening with smudges of pink.

     “If you eat too much sugar, you’ll get pudgy.” Baba twists the lid back on the jar. “Boys don’t like pudgy girls. And if boys don’t like you,” she disappears behind the refrigerator door, “you’ll end up a spinster. Do you know what happens to spinsters, Stephanie?” Baba pinches the blunt blade and lifts the silver knife from Stephanie’s grasp.

Stephanie’s knife remains poised in the air, glistening with smudges of pink.

     “They are turned into marmalade.” The knife clanks in the sink. Stephanie’s eyes grow wide. “That’s right. Zested and mashed and put into little jars with the orange and the lime.” Stephanie’s face scrunches reflexively, remembering the bitterness of the citrus spread. She hates the little bites of skin between her teeth.

    “Exactly. And you don’t want to be turned into marmalade, do you?”

    “No,” Stephanie admits, hanging her head and hooking her feet behind the legs of the chair.

    “Good.” Stephanie’s under-jammed piece of toast sits accused between them. Leaning in close, Baba whisks the plate away, dropping the toast into the trash can. “Shall we go for a walk today?”

• • •

Breadcrumb #442

DAVID KLASOVSKY

I didn't wanna live anymore but also didn't care much about the fuss and muss of putting an end to it all, like explaining my purchase of rat poison to the clerk in the Ace, nor could i bring myself to contemplate rolling around in pain for an hour or more until my heart gave out. You know. Taking the elevator to the roof, weathering the storm of distant past memories welling up inside you up there on the parapet. Sorting through regrets while your legs spasm and refuse to jump. Many's the romantic that assumes it's easy to just fling yourself off a parapet  or to pull the trigger on a gun pointed at your own head. it aint. If there was just a switch you could throw and be done, i'd have done it. But no. I just lingered on and on glumly, and totally disinterested in life. What a drag. Seeing Dr. Caldwiller's ad in the back of an old Aegis magazine i found (on a park bench outside the Tenement Museum on Broome St) gave me the least little glimmer of hope. I happened to be on my way to the post office, so i said what the heck, and sent in a money order for the requested $15.99. I had forgot all about it 10 business days later when the package arrived, tastefully wrapped in plain brown paper with no return address. Could have been a bomb for all i knew, but given the basically null state of my emotional life at that point the possibility frankly caused me no hesitation whatsoever. I ripped it open. Everybody likes a surprise packet don't they? Well curiousity killed the cat, as the saying goes. Though in this case that's imminently debatable. i liked that the instructions appeared to be handwritten, even though i knew it was just a handwriting font like you can get made of your handwriting for a few bucks on the internet. It lent a homey personal touch. And the graphic of the GREEN FIRE on the box itself once i'd uncovered it was inticing and kinda sexy. Plus i had all the materials on hand, wooden stick matches, a pinch of salt, some hairs of a cat, and by great good fortune i also had the requisite page ripped from the Bible handy. How likely is that? i don't put much store in co-incidences but sometimes there is just no other explanation. In no time at all the silent GREEN FIRE was ablaze in my humble bed/dining room area and surprise surprise it really was cool to the touch just like the ad says. So i walked right into it, with nary a backwards glance. And now here we are the two of us, not best friends by any means but neither of us depressed or suicidal (hallelujah). One thing they do not tell you about is the smell, which is god-awful and clings to everything. We will probably have to get new furniture which is okay cuz all we had was just basically trash taken in off the street and all, but for someone with nice furniture you should be aware of this, and maybe do it outside or cover your stuff with plastic.

• • •

Breadcrumb #411

GABRIELLA EVERGREEN

 

***

It was a ritual, burning what was done to me. I watched the flames eat the lace elastic, melting it so it fell in drops and splattered the concrete, molten black drops of tar. That fire burned my rage, my guilt, my grief, my shame, my regret. It made my blood alive, awakened it from a brownish-red stain to a boiling, bubbling black oil. Fiery oil that coated my lungs and eyes and insides. My blood frothed and seethed, in the veins beneath my skin and the veins of the cheap synthetic lace. It consumed the fabric like a lizard, snapping up toward my face, then curling in on itself, fusing to the pavement, and hardening into black twisted spikes of disfigured material. I breathed in that acrid smoke, a smell I’d been previously unfamiliar with. It’s on my fingers and face and sleeves now, and I want it to stay there. I want that smell to provoke people to ask me why – I want them to know that I burned him. Burned his fingers and his nails. Burned what he did not ask, burned him because he did not stop.

***

I’ve always had a fascination with fire. When I was young, my father would take us camping. My brothers and I would collect dry wood to pile and set alight. I would sit and stare into the fire for hours, until the ash stung my eyes and they started to water. I created cities within the burning logs. I imagined the tiny people who lived among the embers, building their homes in the smoldering sticks. When one would snap off and fall into the ashes below, sending sparks into the air, they would integrate it into the city’s architecture. The hotter the fire grew, the more they thrived. I wanted to join them.

***

I watched that fire until the flames had nothing left to consume and extinguished themselves. I rubbed the remains into the concrete with the sole of my boot. Then I stood up, lit a joint, and breathed in a different kind of smoke. I walked away, back to the city I’d be leaving soon, the city that had once felt very safe. No one would know what had happened here.

• • •