Tell Me How Much You Love It
by N. Michelle AuBuchon
Your friends own an apartment in Park Slope a few blocks from your house. It’s modern and homey: plants on a terrace that faces a quiet street, all the pots and pans, a nice stove, and proper wine glasses.
They ask you to house sit for a week—water the plants, feed the cats. You live in a nice apartment with two other roommates, but it has never been a home. You are a cook, and you never cook there. The kitchen does not feel like yours. Your knives and cast iron gather dust. Your cookbooks sit on the shelf above the microwave—a reminder of your former life—when you knew how to prepare meals, take care of yourself, boil an egg, bake a cake, and roast a chicken every now and then. When you lived in Astoria, you taught yourself to cook. You read cookbooks and scoured every market in the neighborhood to make new recipes every night. Your favorites were the recipes that had ingredients you’d never tasted before—the whole experience a kind of adventure—a thrill.
I first encountered Felicidad Blanc the same way most people before me had, hearing her melancholy, singsong voice say in Spanish: “He died at seven in the evening in Castrillo de las Piedras one summer afternoon, luminous and clear, like so many others we had lived in other summers. The previous days we had been happy. Once again a rupture interrupted my life.”
by Emily Weitzman
The Long Valley Pub is the kind of typical, cozy, dimly lit Irish establishment that perpetually smells of Guinness. I climb up a tight stairwell to the tucked away bar that hosts Cork’s weekly poetry open-mic on my first evening in the city. I came to Ireland to escape—from what, I’m not so sure. I have a poetry grant, which provides me, a recent college graduate, with the freedom and money to travel the world solo for a year. Yet each new place I make home inevitably leaves me restless. My eighth time starting over in a new country this year, the feeling of the unfamiliar has become almost ordinary. I don’t have a clear sense of direction, yet I cannot stop moving. This is my last month of movement, this time in Ireland, before heading home. The decision to come here was almost an afterthought: a place so steeped in literary tradition, why not? As I order a pint and take a seat by myself in the packed room of Cork poets, Ireland seems more steeped in beer than anything else.
by Tabitha Blankenbiller
The orthodontist asks me to bite and bite again. I grind on a slip of magic paper. A woman hovers behind him with a water pick and instrument tray, and knows what he requires before he asks. Together they file down a stray edge to my front tooth, the one I’ve paid hundreds of non-insured dollars to fix. I have spent the last 30 months with my mouth corralled by invisible fences, yanking my stray right incisor back in line with the friends it abandoned so long ago. In the commercials they tell you that Invisalign should only take you a year, but that’s because your teeth weren’t as fucked as mine.
by Joshua James Amberson
In fourth grade, my aging teacher’s neat handwriting began to morph into a series of arcane, jumbled symbols, their formerly straight lines and perfect circles turning wavy and uneven. I wondered if Mr. Youngren was getting shaky as time went by, or if it was an issue with the chalk, or even the board itself. My confusion continued for weeks, maybe even months, unable to interpret the words in front of me and not understanding why.
The Back of the Box
by Rachel Ann Brickner
I almost became a pop star from the back of a cereal box. It was 1998. I was twelve. Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” was at the top of the charts and her bare belly covered the United States. Every boy wanted her. Every girl wanted to be her. It was a difficult time for us all.
by Linnie Greene
I needed some serotonin, so I bought a $35 nosebleed seat in Madison Square Garden. That spring, my main association with Harry Styles had been antagonizing basic men at bars—declaring his genius, and then watching them go catatonic referencing Elliott Smith or Bowie’s Berlin years. I liked him enough that I could recognize the opening bars of “Sign of the Times” when it came on in a comic book shop, but could not tell you his hometown or a favorite One Direction single. I imagined June, months away, channeling my mother as she carted me to skeevy amphitheaters in Raleigh all those years ago.
Optative Bop: Ping-Pong in Life and Literature
by Henry Stimpson
Years ago my friend David came down from Vermont to go to a Celtics game with me and his 16-year-old son, who was hanging around with a druggy crowd and close to flunking out. David feared the weekend might not go well; they weren’t getting along. But they played ping-pong in my basement, and David soon had a big grin on his face, and so did Jake: he was beating his old man.