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Posts from the ‘Notebook’ Category

what’s in my bag


We were sitting in a van with not especially functional air conditioning in an especially hot part of the planet talking about not much of anything. The landscape blurred. The air conditioning labored.

We got to joking about the weird things we carry. My bag and its collection of odd ball contents had already become a running joke among us. Hungry? I got you. Bleeding? Well, I can fix that, too. At least temporarily.

I promised my friends I’d make a list in the spirit of Glamour’s recurring feature. It pretty much goes without saying that Glamour’s bags are way more, well, glamourous than mine. But I’m pretty sure I have more snacks — and snacks always win.

So here goes!

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playing catch

so there we stood alongside the trail, our toes inched up to the edge of the mountainside, right up to the line where the earth gives way to sky.

from a distance we could hear our friends’ voices, just one more, that looked good, can you hit it higher, as they tried to capture that perfect slice in time, that one-two thousandth of a second of energy in motion.

and we stood and we watched. and as we watched the sun drifted inexorably downward. and we began to toss words back and forth in a game of catch, telling the story we were living the way writers inevitably do. it’s as if it isn’t real until we assign words to it, as if we aren’t really alive unless we write it down.

and then it became a game of one-upmanship, adjectives piling on adjectives, a tall tale fueled by the beer we passed between us. the sun became a flaming orb, setting fire to the sky, the seas shone a clear crystalline blue and washed ashore on vanilla white sands, the ground up bones of millions of crustaceans, their lives long over. and we laughed like idiots at our creation, geniuses in our own minds. the sky turned red.

soon our friends came up to meet us, their search for perfection suspended by the light’s fading. and we stood there together transfixed under the darkening sky. we watched the shadows sink deeper into the mountain’s lineaments and the sea follow the sky into darkness.

and we stood, the four of us bound together by ritual, by the magic moment of the day’s end and the alluring dream of tomorrow’s new beginning.

the wait

after a while the heat begins to feel like a tangible thing, like a burden we carry on our shoulders as we go about our days.

or maybe it’s an oozing amoeboid mass, the spawn of some alien being who visited from a faraway planet just long enough to leave it behind. it rises out of the pavement and emanates from the blinding stucco walls, entangling us in its sticky embrace. maybe that’s what it is.

the power goes out, the stoplights stare sightlessly. the apocalypse feels near like maybe we’ve trespassed against something far larger than we are. the traffic snarls and stalls, the sun beats down, impassive.

the sun sets, the heat stays. sirens whine in the distance and their cries linger in the dry air. a hot wind blows down from the hills. the leaves scrape and whisper, brown and dry like the pages of a newspaper left too long in the sun.

the heat hangs suspended in the darkness. we pace through the restless nights as the wind tells of fire. we turn to the sea hopeful, as though somewhere in it depths hides the antidote to our troubles. the infinite blue taunts, but offers no promises.

and so we wait.

today in mansplaining

I was sitting at the coffee shop, wearing my history doctor hat, burning through a fatty bio of JFK. Scribbling in the margins, turning pages, you know, the thing you do when you have to read a long thing and quickly. This bro across the table from me is like, looking at me funny and I’m like, brah, wut. Then he says, man, I don’t know how you can even read a book on paper. It’s like, so much better on an ipad. I mean, I like the feel of paper, but ipads are so great. And I’m like, brah, I give zero fucks about your ipad. I have 50 pages to go before I can get up and do something more fun, so maybe shutup? Also, I like books because I can spill on them and drop them and it doesn’t end up being a $2000 problem, like the part where I almost dropped a camera lens off the pier today. Into the ocean. Which would have been bad. But anyway. The bro. So then he says, the best part about reading on an ipad is that you can like highlight the words you don’t know and look them up. Right there! It’s so easy! Uh, bro, some of us don’t have to look up the words? Because we already know them? I promise, I did not laugh at him. But it was really really hard.

the stories we tell

Tell me a story, I say. Anything will do. He looks surprised and has to think about where to begin. There was this one day, he says. It was ten feet and glassy, I paddled out with my best friend.

I’m not sure where we are anymore. We’ve been riding up this hill so long it is starting to feel like my whole life has been spent here, just riding. I know I’ll dream of it later. I’ll awaken in a sweat, haunted by the vision of these endless corners, each one concealing then revealing another pitch upward. The road is inexorable, existential. There’s no exit and I feel like a cockroach.

There was a big set, I was caught inside, he’s saying. The story comes to me from a long way away, as if through a dixie cup connected by a long string across the span of our bedroom windows. The words skip and jump. Some of them are missing altogether.

I picture the boiling sea, imagine its push and tug, the way it toys with you, helpless. It’s like gravity, the sea, and just now, gravity is not exactly my favorite thing, riding up a road someone decided belonged here, absurdly high on a mountain. Gravity pulls at my legs, dragging me backward, pulling me under. I’m drowning with only my legs to save me.

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