Bottom of the Bag

I was a teenage pothead. Defined as anytime, anyplace, with anybody. I self-medicated behind the gym, in hardscrabble woods, in the sprawl of parking lots, in stank-masking men’s rooms. And, of course, out the window of my rock-and-roll refuge, the room in my parent’s stucco-ceilinged castle. The built-in let-down being depletion, the bottom of the bag, when I and my like-minded stoner either pushed off, seeing as there was nothing left, or strategized about the next score. The friend of a friend of a friend, that kind of thing, or the vaguely known tough who might point us in the right direction. And then we had to come up with the cash.

The Cricket and the Golden Hour

It is 1956 and Elsie steps out of a taxi on 10th and Broadway. The city is quiet, a Saturday morning, and the golden hour casts everything in halo: the bodega owner watering his plants, the diner worker prodding a trash bag out the door, the taxi driver yawning as he pulls away. It has rained overnight, and the sidewalks, slicked wet, make a hazy mirror for the Manhattan skyline. Elsie’s heels click on the pavement, and her coat, a shimmery blue, swells in the spring rain’s belated breeze. On mornings like this, the city, cool and ethereal, feels like walking around inside a pearl. It is all hers.

Hired Help

And I was picky, believe me. I interviewed a dozen home health aides, at least. Half of them could barely speak English, and one had the nerve to ask if her son could come to my house after school. I was like, lady, I don’t know even know you, let alone your son.

But Sunita was polite. Professional. I didn’t have to listen to any sob story about her starving family. I still don’t know much about her personal life; I don’t even know which island she comes from. Which is how it should be. Boundaries.

The Sailing Trip

Elliot screwed up his face, his eyes disappearing into deep, fleshy crevices. “Wasn’t your dissertation on something to do with Eliot, too? Eliot and class, Eliot and race, something like that?” he asked.

“Gender politics in nineteenth-century novels,” I said, laying out my words carefully, cards in a high stakes game. “So yeah, Eliot was in there.” I had submitted my Eliot chapter with my job application. Hadn’t he read it before he hired me?

Limairy Brings a Poem to Class

“Miss Klopkin,” they say. “Why can’t we rhyme?” And “this is hard” and “what’s the point of close reading?” What is the point of diving below the surface to reveal a deeper meaning when it’s right there in front of us?