Short Stories & Essays, Uncategorized

I Speak Not of Shepherds, Father.

“Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has been innumerable years since my last confession. “

“May the lord help you to confess your sins, my child”

“Father, I have lied, but I have done so oft in the name of love, or companionship, but these lies have begun to weigh on me, and I feel I must speak my truth.”

“Yes, my child, tell me how you have lied.”

“I can no longer pretend to like Davids, father. I have lied about my favor for so many Davids.”

“Davids? Do you speak of Shepherds?”

“No father, I speak of artists. David…ack, I can barely say it aloud father.

“Tell me my child, who is this David?”

“Lynch, father, I can not longer pretend to enjoy and care for the work of filmmaker and personality David Lynch. I fear that by speaking this truth I will be ostracized by my friends and loved ones, but it has to stop.”

“Ahh, my child, of course there’s some disagreement about season two of Twin Peaks, and where his real vision came in to play, but season one seems in like with your interests, no?”

“Indeed father, whimsy, and murder mysteries, and Kyle Machlachlan are things I adore. But, I just don’t care for it.”

“Even Blue Velvet?”

“Even Blue Velvet, father.”

“That is indeed a burden to bear. I will keep you in my prayers in this trying time.”

“And Father, there’s more…”

“My child, do not tell me you speak of the other, the most sacred of Davids…”

“Bowie?! Absolutely not, father! I would never dare besmirch his honor. But, in truth, there is another David who I can no longer suffer to feign enthusiasm for. It’s David Byrne, father.”

“A yes, and you may find yourself, in a catholic confessional booth, and you may ask yourself, how did I get here?”

“Good one. A real dad-joke, or a real father-joke. Indeed, I enjoy that song when it comes on the radio. I nod my head when acquaintances, cousins, young teacher’s assistants, and even lovers espouse the “genius” of David Byrne. But I do not feel the same admiration in my heart, and it fills me with shame.”

“My child, these are grave deviances from what we have declared good. For your penance, you must learn the lyrics of an obscure talking heads song, and practice your poker face in the mirror 50 times. And 50 Hail Marys.”

“Yes father”

“Tell me child, are there more?”

“Not quite. I mean I always preferred the intro to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but that’s allowed, yes?”

“Ah yes, brother Eggers, indeed, we make room for those who love the intro as well as the memoir itself. Our flock is open to all.”

“Thank you, father.”

“Yes my child, I leave you with your penance to make at home, but before we leave let us say the lord’s prayer together. And may God give you strength to find your way back to the flock.”

“I am ready, father”

“You remind me of the babe…”

“What babe?”

“The babe with the power?”

“What power?”

“The power of voodoo..”

“Who do?”

“You do!”

“Do what?”

“Remind me of the babe!”

“Amen.”

“Amen.”

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Short Stories & Essays, Uncategorized

The kinds of thing I text fuckboys. God save me.

There is, quite honestly, no where I’d rather be than on a train. Waiting in the car, at the station, early enough to have found a good seat, by the window, and next to a person whose arm I can gather affectionately across my lap, my fingers tracing lazy spirals on their forearm, their thumb tracing purposeful, flirtatious arches across my knee. And perhaps a kiss on the shoulder, it wouldn’t be so greedy or untoward to wish for one, in this, a description of a perfect moment.

There is nowhere I would rather be than situated in the blissful beginning of a good time: past the anxiety, the which platform and where to sit, the where is your ticket and it said I had to print it but I am sure they will accept it from the phone. And where to let go of the baggage, emotional or otherwise? And should we pack a lunch?

The bit after that:

In that blissful moment, the quiet, when I (when we) can exhale amidst the shuffling of footsteps, and look out a window toward something. When I know I am going somewhere.

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Ugh.

Well, everyone that was telling me to move on has to eat their words, because I bent myself backwards to do it.

I am going to hate myself when I wake up, so I am avoiding going to sleep. Avoiding the inevitable.

He didn’t ask for much in way of approval. The blissful ignorance of a handsome and preposterously well-endowed man, to ask nothing and try everything.

NO. (Don’t put your hand on my throat. )

At least he listened to that.

I proved…something? What a mediocre victory.

I am going to go shower forever.

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An evening with a smoker.

I spent some time last night chatting with a smoker. They aren’t rare here, or disregarded. Despite the protected status of the nicotine-smitten citizens of the city, things have changed. Indeed, even Vienna, time capsule that it is, has modernized slightly since I moved here, and I no longer must suffer through the winter with my coat reeking of stale tobacco if I dare set foot in a bar for even a flutter of a moment.

The issue was, she was smoking the cigarettes I used to smoke. She had quite a few of of them, but kept insisting that each new cigarette was her second. There were 3 or 4 “second” cigarettes. It was entertaining, she’s a funny girl, and she looks cute when she smokes. That was the lethal thing back then, being told I looked good when I smoked.

And the whole time I was watching her look cute and forlorn through a cloud, my mouth was watering.

I cannot start smoking again. Absolutely not.

And yet today, I am reading, and still thinking about it. About how nice it would be to stop thinking about everything that plagues me and pick up a cigarette. To watch the smoke curl about the corners of the page like a cat in need of a cuddle. Wouldn’t it be romantic to have something else to occupy my mind than all this knowledge, and nonsense, and (god forbid) all these fucking emotions.

I’m asthmatic. We’re in the midst of a lung disease epidemic. I am far too logical for this.

But, wouldn’t one more bad habit solve everything?

If I am going to pick up smoking I will have to give up starting sentences with capital-A “and”. And I would rather die.

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4-leaf clovers are 1 in 10,000. I’m always looking for one.

“I see that, too. Everyone here is broken. All these women I meet and they want love but they just can’t. You just look at them and you see, they can’t. I don’t know what it is about this city, if we all come here because we’re broken, or if the city makes us that way.”

“I always say, ‘Vienna is a city built on Roman ruins and heartbreak.”

But, I want to stay. At least for a little while.

I’m going to set roots, and grow like a weed from the cement.

I’m here to officially revoke my membership to the Broken Hearts Society.

Give me the form to fill out, the hotline to call. Go ahead, charge me an extortionate cancellation fee.

I’m ready.

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The moment it becomes a story.

“So you like your men like you like your furniture: Scandinavian.”

Making new friends and swimming in new waters. Getting my feet wet and talking too loud for my own good, perhaps. It’s nice to not be the most-American American girl in the room. I’ve been in Europe for six years and I still feel like Minnie Mouse, but I’ve grown to accept it.

Someone told me that when he is with me he “feel[s] like less of a stranger here.” So, maybe I am doing something right. Or maybe I am just making him feel normal by comparison. Who knows.

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We’re Some Undefined Massacre of Embraces

I’m supposed to go away with you tomorrow.
I was supposed to be done with you, well before yesterday.
All I do when I’m with you is orgasm relentlessly and ask myself,
“What am I doing?”
“What am I fucking doing?!”

You make me feel worthless.
You make me feel so good.

You trace your thumbs along my bones,
You draw me so precisely.
Let me bask in the illusion of being known.
You don’t want to get to know me, really.

I just want to dislike you enough to remind myself not to want you.

I’m just here for the ride out of town.
I’m just here to get you out of my system.
I’m just here for the starlight.

I’m just here for a few more weeks,
Might as well enjoy it.


And were we to take an inventory of the friendship,
What would we find?

A few dozen skipped rocks.
A generous handful of sunsets.
Hotel receipts.
Gasoline.
A reckless dearth of caffeine.
Some spilled ink.
A couple wishes each, made during the meteor shower (What did you wish for?).
Enough peach pits for a cyanide poisoning.
A multitude of small deaths, some of them faked.
And perhaps, and most importantly,
Two people who are slightly happier than they were a few weeks ago.

The spoils of war whatever-the-fuck-this-is.

I feel comfortable with you.
Cozy, numb.
An affection relatively devoid of emotion, and certified gluten-free.  
You taught me to love dirt again. To get my hands filthy.
It’s under my fingernails, you’re under my skin.

I should learn to garden,
to cultivate something I can actually grow
and have a say in.
Something to nourish my body beyond pleasure.
I could grow herbs.
Vegetables.
Roses.

Who am I kidding, I can’t grow roses.
I can’t keep a cactus alive.

Perhaps, this week, I will buy myself some flowers.

That’s a start.

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13 was her lucky number, I like to think she watches over me every Friday the 13th. It seems I survived another one.

You make me feel beautiful. Not just beautiful, gorgeous.

You make me feel gorgeous.

I’m not exactly great at taking it slow. I’ve been known to be impatient, My imagination is overactive. My hands are fidgety, and your skin is awfully soft. But, I will make an exception.

You are, or so it may seem, exceptional.

And what a thing it is, to not only be a thing worth wanting,

But to be a woman worth loving.

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Short Stories & Essays, Uncategorized

Biblioquiescent Panic: A Case Study

I decided to escape the confines of my apartment’s white walls for the confines of the Austrian National Library’s white walls. I tried to visit years ago as a tourist, and left embarrassed, having never really seen the inside. Which I was told is gorgeous.

Today, I decided to be brave. I bought an annual pass, and went in ready to be dazzled by some gorgeous Austrian architecture. There isn’t really a good map of the reading rooms, at least not one I could find. It just looks like…a library? Not sure what all the hubbub was about. From what I understand there is a fancy reading room somewhere, but it doesn’t seem to be available for actual reading. Just for instagramming and private events.

Anyways, libraries, I forgot, are an absolute ADHD nightmare. It’s so…silent. I know, genius that I am, I forgot. But, this is excessive, more than library quiet. There’s nary the shuffle of a page turning, nor the occasional cough. There are dozens of people here and I’d venture to guess not a single one is breathing. My shoes were painfully loud while I walked in. I took a sip of water and the sound echoed violently.

I somehow picked the squeakiest chair not only in this room, nor in this library, but in the entire world. Honestly, scientists should be studying this chair to learn its secrets. After cacophonously scraping it in place to get myself seated, I am now stuck here, a bit too far from the desk, until the end of my days, for fear of ever making that noise again.
It was nice knowing you all.
“She died doing what she hated, being quiet.”

Since arriving, I have gone through the formality of opening my copy of Gray’s Anatomy for Students to the first page of the chapter on the lower limb. Chapter is a polite way of putting it, it’s more of a formidable, insurmountable heft of paper with a vendetta against my attention span. Honestly, I can’t bring myself to start, knowing I won’t finish. Thus, I have spent my time looking at what everyone else is studying. I took a seat at the furthest table back, lest anyone else give me the same treatment,
“Hmm, what’s she up to? Not studying, by the looks of it. She should really get started reading that section, it looks awfully long and she has to finish this class before September, tsk tsk
Honestly, it’s astonishing how many details this imaginary stranger knows about my procrastination.

Oh god, oh dear God. My stomach is going to grumble. I should have eaten something. And I have to cough. I have never had such a strong desire to cough in my life. I guarantee you, there is a German word for “the sudden desire to cough knowing that one is in a quiet room”.

I should look it up. Better yet, I should make one up. Biblioquiescent Tussis.

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In the dream, I was here, but also in Boston. Where were you?

Last night I didn’t dream of you, but I was thinking of you in the dream. Talking about you, trying to call you but the phone wouldn’t ring. Telling mutual acquaintances a bit of everything, all the falling apart and the pain.

And wouldn’t it be easy, wouldn’t it be convenient, if we could just retreat to a cave and grumble about the world. And love nothing but each other.

And perhaps my opinion on the matter will evolve. It’s a cliché ripe for disproving.

But, for now, it feels terrifyingly certain, that there is nothing I will ever love, the way I loved you.

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You saw the journal, you were warned.

I was up one stair,
the height difference compensated for
I figured I might as well,
kiss you and all.

Let’s get out of here.
If you take me home I’ll go down on you.
Nice try, and not the first time
a guy has used that line on me.

Maybe I give off a certain energy,
Maybe you all think I taste sweet?
I’m awfully vanilla, but
l hope it’s crafted with the expertise
only a pastry chef could manage.

You’re bringing back memories of Brooklyn,
and the bar hounds I used to know.
7 years away, I’m out of practice.
Same lines, different accent.
Dogs, all of you, really.
Puppies, lately.
Here boy, come play.

You can walk me home
but you can’t come in.

You can show me the sunset
and bring me a box of chocolates.

We can sit by the water
while you drink gin & tonic.

You’re allowed a certain amount of me,
the pleasure of my company.
A handful of skin, or two.
But, I’m not here to heal you,
not your manic pixie dream girl.
I have my own story.
I’ve been known to kiss and tell.

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What a thing it is, to be a thing that is wanted.

Polite kisses, not enough

to smudge my lipstick.

A younger man with thin lips

and a leather jacket.

“Are you cold? You can have it. “

There’s enough romance

in the city center at night,

That it even gets under the

skin of a guy who grew up here.

There’s enough moonlight to go around.

Enough street lamps to lean under.

“Are you a boy, or are you a man?”

“I’m not sure, what’s the difference?”

“Well, what do you value?”

“Absolute honesty, even when it hurts.”

“Well, I can’t tell you the precise difference. But one is that a man has an answer to that question.”

“Can I sit closer to you?”

And in the morning he calls me,

Texts me.

What a thing it is,

To be a thing that is wanted.

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Short Stories & Essays, Uncategorized

And were it so, that I could do it all again, I would.

Ours was the greatest love story ever told. It was never going to end well, it would have been too much. The universe needs some sort of balance, and two little people can’t going on sapping all the joy from it.

But here I am, in the falling action of the fairy tale.  He returned his apartment keys, and the wedding ring. The gold came from my mother’s favorite bracelet. When she died, we made 6 rings from it: one pair for each sibling. My father made me get mine engraved, with our names and wedding date. I was the first sibling to use them, and I will be the first to remelt the gold, and erase this chapter of the story. I don’t know, I don’t know if the rings could ever be worn again. I don’t know what feels right, or what is final. I know this is a story not worth erasing. I would do it all again, I would.

I mean, to be fair, the gold came from bracelets bought for my mother by her first husband. So, maybe they can stay, dates engraved and all. The story of the rings was always intertwined with the fact that great loves still end.

And the heartbreaks which came before this one, they all added up to this. My last relationship before K, was with A. It was bad, toxic, I was young and naïve. It ended on a gray day in January, and my life went up in flames. I left in a hurry, so suddenly that I forgot to bring my jewelry box, with my grandmother’s jewels inside of it. A friend from the town brought them to New York for me, after we had both moved there. And she invited me to a play, Sleep no More. That was where I met K.

So maybe this is just another one of those moments. Another perfect heartbreak, maybe this is building up to something. But, even if it isn’t, even if this was the last great love of my life, and even though it ended, it was worth it.

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Short Stories & Essays

…And, what do you do for work?

Telling someone I am a pastry chef can be pretty fun. Generally speaking, people like sugar. So generally speaking, when I tell people I deal in sugar, they are more prone to like me. Their face lights up and they say
“Oh, how wonderful!”,
and for a moment, I feel a bit magical. As if I am capable of wonder, and mystery, and making their nephew’s 3rd birthday cake.
I wanted to become a pastry because pastry is art which makes people happy. Of course, there are occasions when I feel it’s a thankless task, a job for someone over-indulged and undereducated. Moments when I worry I am not worthy of respect. It’s a learned reflex, after enough conversations with doctors, or lawyers, or those in tech. So, I soften the blow of their disregard for me, the peasant, by saying,
“Would you like to see some photos of my cakes?”

And no one ever says no, because it’s cake.

Then, after viewing an album of selected creative showstoppers they say,
 “Oh, so you’re really serious!”
“So you’re actually talented!”
The implication always being that, without photographic proof-of-pudding, I was some sort of housewife-hack with a dream and a hand mixer.

If you follow up in the conversation, it often goes in very predictable, almost formulaic directions:

  • The “Have you seen The Great British Bake Off? You should compete on television!” conversation
    • “I don’t know anything about baking, or television, or competitions. But you, stranger, should sign up for this competition show I like. I’m not just trying to find common ground by referencing popular media which I enjoy, I am genuinely commanding you to stop everything and become a reality tv star.”
    • I’ve seen a few episodes. I was taught to pronounce genoise in a different way. I have no idea what a Victoria sponge is. Victorian sponge? Thank you, but it’s not a competition even meant for professional pastry chefs. Because, I am a professional. I need you to hear that. I am a professional. Yes, they are nice to each other and I love that: It’s a fairy tale, and not how the real world works. No, I don’t want to be on a competition show. No, really, I don’t want to be in a competition. No, I get it,  thank you, but it’s just not for me. I am not interested in being on television! I would end up crying in about five minutes! No seriously, not interested, but thank you. Why? Because I…have a medical reason that I cannot withstand stage lighting? I am in witness protection and cannot risk being seen? Jesus Christ how do I make you stop?!
  • The “I always dreamed of being a pastry chef” conversation
    • “I always wanted to do that! Which I feel I am absolutely qualified to do, because I once baked muffins and it was fun, and thus baking muffins for ten straight hours in a hot kitchen while your boss yells at you must also be fun. Your job is easy, and something I, a person with no experience in a real kitchen, could do just as well as you, if only I decided to do it.”
    • This is a person who has only ever seen pastry chefs in movies. Most likely Hallmark Christmas movies, where the small town candy-cane-cake shoppe is on the verge of demise, and the evil, vague corporate-y company wants to buy it on December 23rd. Before the logical, black tie, small town candy cane ball. You know, movies where pretty Canadian girls bake inexplicably small portions of the small town’s signature candy-cane-cake, all the while violating innumerable health codes: their hair hanging down, not a hair net in sight. Licking their fingers. Inviting the visiting evil corporate real estate guy to enjoy an evening of massive potential liability if he gets burned. (Is it real estate he works in? All we know is there is a deadline of December 23rd, and an impending E. coli outbreak). Then some bizarre entrepreneurship 101 project saves the day: we just sell candy-cane-cakes on Easter!
    • They have also seen The Great British Bake Off.
    • They also think I should become a contestant on The Great British Bake Off.
  • The “You Should Be My Grandmother” conversation
    • “Have you heard of this obscure pastry from my culture? This pastry that you would be culturally appropriating if you actually made it? This is a thing my grandmother made, and you should open a business selling only that thing. It has a shelf life of 12 minutes, and one of the ingredients is an obscure flour that is cheap in my hometown but unfathomably expensive here. You should open this bakery below my apartment building, in Manhattan, where the rent is so cheap. Because there is a massive market, in my mind, for this pastry that I want to eat each morning. Plus, opening a business is so easy. Everything you have ever done, any art you ever made from sugar, is irrelevant. They are nice, but they are not this one specific ugly lump of wheat and obscure flour that I love. You should make this one obscure thing, so that I have a place to buy it. “
    • “Also, have you seen The Great British Bake Off?
  • The “Have you seen that video of that cake that looks like a….” conversation
    • Yes, I have seen the fucking video, 18 people posted it on my Facebook when it went viral six weeks ago.
    • Yes I have also heard of The Great British Bake Off
  • The “My penis makes me an expert in high risk business ideas!” conversation
    • Yes, because the only thing standing between me and running my own business, at a massive financial, emotional, and physical cost, is you, some dude, telling me to do it. Some guy I just met at a dinner party, or was on a first date with. I just needed you to give me the bright idea that I could sell cakes. Sure, I studied food service management for 4 years and got a degree in it. Sure, I know the profit margins and the risks involved. Sure, I’ve worked at Michelin-starred restaurants, and bakeries around the world, but it’s you, someone blessed with a big old man brain, who has enlightened me to the fact that…bakeries exist?
    • It is likely, but not confirmed, that these men are the same men who write the business plans which save the small-town-candy-cane-cake-bakery in the aforementioned Hallmark movies.
    • They have never heard of The Great British Bake Off.

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