by Treena Thibodeau
You are not doing enough. This announcement goes out at regular intervals over the P.A. system inside the cramped fitting room of my skull. You are not doing enough. I’m supposed to be meditating, but instead I’m dress-rehearsing conversations with people who now only exist inside of glowing rectangles. Visualize: sending my breath out. Think about viruses, try to pull just my own droplets back in. Sometimes it helps if I visualize a cat’s tail sliding through my fingers. I don’t have a cat, so I mentally borrow my sister’s. If no one is around to hear, I’ll screw headphones into the sockets of my ears and sing along with kirtan recordings, making a mess of the Sanskrit. I sing loud enough, maybe I’ll call monsters out of the lake. This week a creature that is not a goose but is definitely the result of something a goose fucked landed on the water and is now on patrol. We nicked this house too, a family member’s rural getaway in a part of Connecticut called the Quiet Corner. We came here the week the morgue trucks came to Queens and have remained since, possessions spreading in the cabin like a spill. I thought I would feel lost here in the woods, so far from the familiar grid of home, but I do not. Squirrels get into the frame of this house and chase shelter and I put out a catch-and-release trap but they are too wily for it.
Safe In Heaven Dead
by Michael Stutz
I’ve been ripping through lots of books during quarantine, going at a mad pace — faster than I’ve done in years. I haven’t read this many books this fast since I was a kid: 14 in the past month or so, and the count’s rising quickly.
One of my favorites in this batch was the smallest. It’s a book I’d read before, an old friend I’d first discovered many years back, a book that’s exactly the size of a pack of cigarettes sliced in half from the top down – Safe In Heaven Dead by Jack Kerouac, published by Hanuman Books in 1994. I think I first bought it, and read it, not long after it came out.
The Ghost of Karen Dalton
by Siân Evans
Across the distance of a computer screen, I’ve witnessed a dear friend process her trauma around starting her career as an ER nurse in a pandemic this year. I’ve felt helpless as so many people I love lost family members they didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to over the past few months, haunted by the irony of their loved ones dying alone in overcrowded hospitals. And while I’ve wanted to hold all this grief in my small hands, it often feels like this year has stretched the very limits of empathy, distancing us all from each other – both physically and in our varied experiences of loss.
Sontag on Heartbreak
by Lee Felice Pinkas
My first heartbreak, at age fifteen, sent me to songs. To schlocky inspirational books whose platitudes I held close, repeated like mantras. Later, revisiting the knots of a complicated relationship in my late twenties, I found Susan Sontag’s journals.
“I always fell for the bullies,” Sontag admits. “Their rejection of me showed their superior qualities, their good taste.”
I found her book in Berlin, Germany. I had followed a guy named Jonah there the summer after our breakup. I was not proud of myself, leaning on pretexts to save myself from the truth that I had crossed the Atlantic to pursue the ghost of a relationship.
Billie Jean and Me
by Jesse Ludington
I don’t remember the name of the bar in Paris, or what time it was, although it had to be late. I remember that it was a Thursday. I remember that the air felt cool on my face when I walked outside. Ashley was inside the bar, getting to know her Tinder date, Carl, an almost impossibly tall and lanky Swedish boy with shoulder-length blond hair, so textbook Ashley’s type I found it hard to believe she hadn’t created him in a lab. Kayla was inside too, nursing what she’d described to me as the worst piña colada of her life. My unfinished jack and coke sat somewhere along the bar—it had been too strong, and overpriced.
Lessons from a New York City Nail Guru
by Libby Leonard
Getting my nails done was not something that ever occurred to me. As a tomboy for a majority of my teens and early twenties, one that elicited such comments as “I don’t really look at you like a girl” from guys who didn’t know how to treat women whom they actually viewed as “girls,” it seemed like a frivolous expense.
Several years later, I was wandering like a zombie through the Upper West Side in frigid February temperatures. I had just gone through a breakup, and didn’t want to go home after work, but didn’t know where else I wanted to go either, until I found myself checking my phone in front of a nail salon. When I looked up, five nail technicians with empty chairs were looking at me smiling. One waved me in.
I. A choice to be disabled?
One of the main characters in Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2002 novel Everything Is Illuminated is a blind chauffeur otherwise known as Grandfather. Grandfather claims to be blind and has a “Seeing Eye bitch,” as Alex, the tour guide with a talent for choosing the wrong word, refers to their dog. Yet Grandfather is also the driver for Heritage Touring, the family outfit that has promised to help the protagonist, named Jonathan Safran Foer, find the shtetl his grandfather fled during the Holocaust. Grandfather spends most of the book driving Alex, who is also his grandson, and Jonathan around Ukraine in this pursuit.
As an African Australian it’s unsurprising that being between worlds is a recurring theme in my stories.
Recently the Sydney Review of Books published my essay “Inhabitation—Genni and I”, where I embrace my once unsayable duality. The text unwraps or layers my journey that is a discovery, “an integral acceptance of the sum of self”.
This theme of hybridity is present in my novel Claiming T-Mo by Meerkat Press, a speculative novel that’s hard to classify in a single genre, with its elements of science fiction, fantasy and magical realism.