Saturday, January 4, 2020

What Happened on 12/21/19: Andrew Maynard, Susan Olding, Emma Thomason, Casey McConahay, Ann Beman

On 12/21/19, we invited writers and readers to write about "What Happened" that day, however they interpreted it, as an exercise in mass attention, and promised to publish as many of the resulting essays as possible. So here we go! For more details and a full list of the contributors, click the What Happened page.


Back to the Desert (Again) 

December 21, 2019: The shortest day of the longest year. It’s dark when I materialize in the stone-gray neighborhood that neither I nor anyone else could possibly recognize. Delirious, I pull my car over to rest a few moments on a lone bench centered in a stranger’s cartoonish, Burton-esque front lawn. I lay my head down for a moment and then wake to find that my vehicle has vanished. I shed a blanket (?) and get up to search the neighborhood only to discover that I am now inside the stranger’s house, trespassing. Stifled, my heart rate nevertheless amplifies as I clumsily tiptoe across the wooden floor, searching for an exit. Halfway to the front door, my surroundings come into focus: I’m in my dear friend Jason’s Santa Monica apartment, halfway from San Francisco to Phoenix, where he is asleep in bed with his husband, possibly dreaming, but not like this illusion bleeding into reality. It’s 3 a.m., so I fall back asleep on the couch, a mere ten days away from making it an entire year without one of these episodes, and now the clock resets to zero.

The drive: I toss my bag into the Honda Odyssey mini van that used to be my grandpa’s, make a quick stop for gas station coffee, and begin the second leg of the drive. I’ve made the 800-mile trip over 20 times now, and this is the part—shitty Los Angeles roads and traffic—I still dread most. All I have is radio, so top 40 it is. Taylor Swift is in love. A woman takes her new man on a hometown visit and warns him that her family fits neatly into stereotypes and will also be sad when they inevitably split. Selena Gomez hums about the streaky highs and lows of loving/losing Bieber. In 2019 my grandpa lost his second of two sons in as many years. He sold the house in Huntsville, Alabama, where he raised his children. He bounced between Phoenix and Tuscaloosa with his wife who has no idea who she is anymore, staying with their daughters, stretching out their timeline while others’ were cut unexpectedly short. Cancer. A sledding accident.
     Rows of windmills signify that the never-ending city is behind me, so I put my phone on my lap, tap speaker, and call my sister in Oregon. She tells me about her recent trip to Phoenix and the kids nature journal she’s launching, and then my nephew chimes in to warn her that she has forgotten to put a pot beneath the coffee she’s brewing which is now spilling on the counter.
     I pass the marker in Indio where my recently rebuilt Subaru engine threw a rod earlier this year, coincidentally on Coachella weekend, which then spiraled into a series of unfortunate events where I had to get an expensive tow to an auto shop a mere three miles away because you can’t U-turn on the I-10; where the kind garage owner told me about a BBQ restaurant in Phoenix he heard was worth the trip as he drove my dog and me out of his way to the Palm Springs airport so I could rent a car; where I couldn’t rent a car because my credit card had recently cancelled due to fraud protection; and where I waited, dog at my feet, for four hours for my dad to  pick me up and take me home to Phoenix. Later that week I returned with a bag of BBQ and a signed title to my car to give the garage owner. He smiled big and shook my hand, and I left.
     I pass the truck stop just outside of Blythe where I pulled my Tacoma over five years ago. With a U-Haul in-tow, I was 12 hours into the drive back to Phoenix to get settled after the girl I loved told me we were done. Delirious and hopped up on coffee and my first 5-hour Energy, I tried to take a nap that turned into what I now think was probably a panic attack, before I walked circles around the 18-wheelers, mustering the steam to continue.
     I cross into Arizona and pull over for the first time in Quartsize to fill my car with the cheaper gas and Wendy’s. The speed limit increases and I put on “Pod Save America” to hear what I missed in the recent Presidential debate. Apparently it was a positive showing by all. Biden didn’t ramble. Warren called out a wine cave without adequately framing her point, leaving room for Mayor Pete’s to rebut as an outsider who is younger, gayer, and poorer than the other candidates. Booker is gone, but hopefully not for long. Harris has left. Yang dispels the myth of grassroots in politics and opts to fix it with monthly checks. Klobuchar reminds Pete that experience isn’t synonymous with poison and that he did not in fact win Indiana. Some rich guy has bought access to the stage. My 7th grade students spent the past month writing essays on the American dream, using Pursuit of Happyness, Monster, and James Baldwin’s debate with William F. Buckley to counter the illusion of equal access in America. We workshopped and revised our essays to distance ourselves from moments of victory in favor of cutting toward discovery, possibly truth. These debates are best when they do the same.
     I’m about 800 miles into the journey as I turn onto my mother’s street. I breathe relief that the Honda Odyssey has arrived intact, confirming my newest theory: there are two types of people, those who love minivans and those who have never owned one. I am 31 years old, single, no kids.
     My mom greets me at the door and I say hello to my brother as I rush to the bathroom. My coonhound/pointer mix, River, paws at the back door. When they let her in she runs straight to my bag and sniffs it clean before trying to break down the bathroom door while I piss. When I open the door she smothers me, bouncing, nails clicking on the wood, forcing her face into my chest as if trying to crawl inside me. She’s been staying with family while I try to figure out a new living situation in San Francisco to bring her back. She sits at my feet while my brother’s wife and baby, my father, and my nephew who now has pink hair arrive to sit and chat in the living room for an hour or so before I leash up River and head to the mountains.

The run: I’ve run about 1100 miles this year, but, nursing a sprained ankle after belly-flopping last month down Mt. Tamalpais in the middle of a 50k, my strides feel clunky on the trails. I haven’t taken a running step in five weeks. River jogs at my side, panting, also working her way back into shape. After a quarter mile of flattish terrain, we start the ascent up Shaw Butte. We’d probably be better off acclimating on something paved and steady, but it’s the mountain trails we fell in love with in Marin County that have made the absence hurt most, so here we are. I have headphones in but no music. I want to hear our pants, focus on the technical, rock-studded trails, and give my ankle some attention, at least at first. Our jog devolves into a quick-footed, hunched-over power hike as the grade steepens. In towns with real winters, landscapes are covered in snow and ice and sleet but not here. In Phoenix, this is when the desert is most alive.
     In the spring River and I could knock out 10 miles of trail without much problem.  On days we couldn’t leave the city, I drove after work to Ocean Beach, dark and empty, and we ran north from Sloat until the beach quit, guided by the rising tide and moonlight bouncing on the water.  She looks exhausted when we reach the summit, so I remind myself to take it easy going down the backside because I know she loves this too much; she’d likely run herself to death before stopping. On the downhill the quads engage as I brake lightly. When we pass a woman walking her lab, I pull River to the far side of the trail anticipating her lunge. She’s like her dad: when she feels restraint, she pulls harder.
     I’m tired too. I have a 100-kilometer race through the Black Canyon in February that it’s hard to imagine being ready for as I struggle after a mere two miles. I turn Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” on repeat, not because it kicks, which it does, but because I need to learn the drums for it in the next few weeks to play at my middle school’s student concert because I am very bad at saying no. I’ve long pictured myself teaching writing at a University, but the longer I teach middle school the harder it is to picture leaving. Things I never imagined doing have now become nonnegotiable parts of my future: playing drums in punk bands with kids trying on rebellion to see how it fits, instructing snickering kids how to poop outdoors on backpacking trips through the Sierras, helping a 4th grader create a board game that helps you fall asleep for her Academic Pursuit project, integrating koosh balls into my advisory as many mornings as possible, proctoring middle school dances and jogging to Target in the rain to find the kids who ditched. Like everything else in my life, longevity translates to essentiality. But I’ve quit and been quit on before—this may just be an illusion. The song plays over and over until River and I are back at the van.  Four miles. The top of the sun disappears as we leave.

The game: My brother asks me last minute if I’d like to catch the Suns vs. Rockets game. We find tickets online as we drive downtown in his minivan and make it inside the stadium just a few minutes after tip-off. We’re in the nosebleeds. A twenty-something-year-old Rockets fan a few rows over shout-narrates every play. Not ten years ago my brother and I would have taken this as a challenge, talked shit back, and made a point of shutting him up, but not anymore. My brother’s a dad now and I’ve settled with age.  My brother carries the type of demons that make it so, depending on the week, he’s either my favorite or least favorite person to sit next to. Today it’s the former. I’m grateful, with the caveat and long history of evidence to know that tomorrow could be different.
     James Harden is lighting us the fuck up. I remember watching him at Arizona State. A smooth, subdued ball handler who could methodically pick apart a defense. I followed as he evolved into the Sixth Man of the Year that gladly played third fiddle to Westbrook and Durant in Oklahoma City, overlooked and eventually — mistakenly — traded. Now he’s the most lethal offensive player in the world. He’s high usage, a one-man team. He became what the Rockets needed to be, and I admire that. However he’s incredibly irritating to watch play my team. Unlike the lower bowl of the stadium, the upper rows are stacked steep. It’s easy to picture yourself tilting forward and falling the long way down.
     After the loss we sit in traffic as thousands of cars bottleneck through construction in downtown Phoenix. I ask about our nephew who’s a freshman in college. In addition to his new pink hair, his voice has changed since starting hormones a few months ago. He’s getting ready to have top surgery a week from now, and my brother and I talk about how glad we are that he didn’t go to school in Tucson when we did. I remember how fraternity dudes struggled to not use the N word anymore after SAE accepted its first black pledge. How they wouldn’t have considered letting a gay guy in because it’d just be weird for all the other brothers. My night is not over. I’ll get dropped off at my mom’s, and she and I will watch Eddie Murphy host SNL until we fall asleep on parallel sofas. But let’s stop here, zoomed in on my nephew who is proof that, as the days get longer and the nights shorten, as we rapidly approach a new year with the potential for massive shifts in politics and self, it is possible to change into the person you were always supposed to be.

Andrew Maynard teaches 7th-grade English in San Francisco, and he has taught creative writing at the University of San Francisco and San Quentin Prison. His essays have appeared in Essay Daily, True Story, DIAGRAM, Mud Season Review, Switchback, and elsewhere.


The sun doesn’t rise until 8:05 a.m.

No. The sun does not show itself at all.

It’s the third, or maybe the fourth or fifth or fifteenth day of incessant rain in Vancouver, and the darkest day of the year, and we can’t even start lighting Chanukah candles until tomorrow.

I’m grumpy, tired, fighting a stubborn virus. I sit in our sunroom listening to the drip and patter of the rain. I don’t do the many chores I’ve planned to do.

The world doesn’t end.

At least, it doesn’t end for me. It ends for countless others.

Some, not far from here, where the rain is snow and highways are closed under threat of avalanche. Some on the continent of India, in protests against a divisive and discriminatory new citizenship act. Some in another hemisphere, where winter is summer and a hundred bush fires sweep the skies of New South Wales.

In Vancouver, night begins at 4:15 p.m.

Around 7, I put on a sequinned top and head for a friend’s party. At the table, we break hunks of bread from a warm baguette and eat it with crumbly cheddar or creamy St. André. We drink red wine. We talk. Our voices swell loud and louder.

What would you see if you stared through the fogged-up window? Wild kaleidoscope. Asian, South Asian, white, mixed race, we are as old as seventy-five and as young as one. Female, male, and trans; queer and straight. Some of us wear beards, some wear braids. Many of us sparkle. Eight-year-old Priya takes the prize, head-to-toe in shimmering red.

At around 9, we start to sing. We sing popular Christmas tunes and traditional carols. Few of us know all the words. Some grew up in Christian homes. Others are atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews. We read along to print-outs, fumble, laugh. Our voices falter or break. The teens experiment with harmonies while the toddlers stomp and clap. Dandy the dog paces the room, wagging his tail at those who still hold plates of food.

Outside, rain continues to fall. It runs in rivulets from the branches of the hemlocks and cedars and firs. The waning moon hides behind the clouds. It casts no light. But this has been the shortest and the darkest day. Tomorrow, the sun will rise at 8:06 a.m. Even if it doesn’t show its face.

Susan Olding is the author of Pathologies: A Life in Essays. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies throughout Canada and the U.S. Her second collection of essays is forthcoming in 2021.


1. This is the moment I hold onto most days: It is 3 or 3:30 in the morning, sometimes 4, when Ian gets home from closing one of the bars he works at. I am a light sleeper, so most nights, I rouse at the sound of his key freeing the deadbolt, the door creaking open. I hold consciousness long enough for him to come into the bedroom, kiss me on the forehead, and whisper that he’ll try to come to bed soon. Most days, by the time he’s shut the bedroom door, I am already gone again, drifting elsewhere. This morning, I make a mental note to remember the way he smells: vaguely smoky, vaguely alcoholic, both scents unspecific. I hear him sit down on the couch and begin to unlace his boots, before falling to sleep again.

2. It is mid-morning when I re-wake. Ian sleeps next to me, open-mouthed, and I whisper-walk out of the bedroom before shutting him inside. I wash my face. I hear our mailman opening our front gate and silently race him to the door to prevent his ringing our violently loud doorbell. Emma! You surprised me. I laugh. He hands me the box.

The package is a box of all black clothing. I have recently started serving at a restaurant downtown and the uniform is simple: Solid, all black, few restrictions. I feel freed by this. I contemplate shifting my entire wardrobe to black, like I did for a bit at the end of high school and start of college. I wonder if this would make getting dressed in the morning easier, if it would help me to think less about my body, if it would make me feel more confident, more put together. It would be a choice to match black with black each morning, my choice, as well as a utility.

I try on the pants. They are a size too large, but I decide to wear them for a walk to test them out anyways. I have a tendency to buy clothes that are ill-fitting, always on the too-large side. I am still adjusting to buying somewhat smaller clothing after losing some weight this year, and I still prefer for all of my clothes to hover around my body, as opposed to press against it. Though, with pants, too big often means they sag in the ass, they lose their shape, causing even the most expensive and well-made pairs to lack neatness.

I walk downtown. It is a bright December day in Tucson and the sun presses against my back as I move. It is the kind of morning I remember liking best as a kid. Crisp but bright, next to no wind, with the sun warm enough to be comfortable without causing me to break a sweat. I call my mom. Recently, I made the decision not to go home for the holiday. This, partially, is out of convenience, but primarily, about control. I did not want to travel, especially for a short time. I wanted to stay behind in the Tucson quiet and work on my current manuscript. So, I chose not to go anywhere, which also feels like a choice to not celebrate the coming holiday. It will be my first Christmas spent away from my childhood home, away from my family, primarily alone. On the phone, we talk about the weather. We talk about my mother’s dog. We talk about the pants I bought, which leads to a brief conversation about the restaurant. My mom doesn’t understand why I want to work there, or why I want to have another job at all. Mostly, she thinks it is about money, or that I am lying, in some way, about my life here.

I explain why I want to work in the restaurant in the same way I explain my writing: with a disclaimer. I underscore the conversation with an upbeat, cheery tone, use words that imply I’m just doing this for fun, and temporarily, before returning to the “real” things I do: teach, work in academic administration, get the oil changed in my car on time, eat healthy, exercise. I talk about writing and serving as if they are hobbies, or my version of taking a break, but what I want to say is that I write and I wait tables to slow down time. They are, to me, the only things that keep me from thinking.

3. I get home at 11:40. Ian is still sleeping; we were meant to go out for breakfast this morning, but he is sick. Instead, I put on a load of laundry so that he will have a clean towel to shower with before returning to work this evening. I wait. I try to play Stardew Valley. I try to play Untitled Goose Game. I try to re-watch the first episode of Sharp Objects. I can’t seem to focus on any of these. Depression is strange in the way it creeps through otherwise normal moments in otherwise normal days and stalls me. I want to crawl into bed, to sleep and sleep and sleep, but I know that if I do this now, I will do nothing else for the coming two weeks. I will not meet my writing deadlines. I will not cook or eat enough or exercise or bathe. I will put even more strain on my relationship with Ian. Instead, I decide to clean.

4. The laundry isn’t done at 2pm, despite nearly 3 hours having passed. Shitty drier. I read a cookbook by Matty Matheson to kill time. I’ve been watching his Youtube videos when I am alone at night and cannot focus on anything longer. I make Ian tea and set it next to his sleeping body. I think about what we might do together if we were ever both well and awake. I wonder if we have ever both been well and awake at the same time.

5. I try to make coconut rice in the instant pot. I torture myself with this task occasionally. I love coconut rice, and it should be so easy to make, but this time, like the previous few, before the pot can get to pressure, there is a loud beeping and the screen shouts in all red: BURN. I release the pressure and pour the semi cooked rice sludge into a normal pot. I heat it over the stove and end up with a risotto-like, coconut-heavy goop. It tastes alright. I make a note to try again another day, perhaps solely on the stovetop next time.

6. When it is 4pm, I try to wake up Ian. He doesn’t flinch, so I fold the laundry and resolve to try again later. I try to wake up Ian again. He finally gets up around 4:45, and I finish folding the laundry while he showers.

7. I think: I am supposed to be writing. I am supposed to be writing. I am supposed to be writing. 

8. I drive Ian to work at around 5:20, to save him from walking in the cold when he is already under the weather. On the way home, I stop at Walgreens. I walk with headphones on through the aisles. I pick up offbrand Dayquil & Nyquil, Kleenex, some La Croix, a Gatorade, and a small bag of Doritos. In the car, on the way home, a song comes on that makes me feel deeply and inexplicably sad, so I cry and I cry and I cry.

9. At home, I think about the last essay I wrote for this project, on June 21, 2018. I think about how it was a week prior to my moving to Tucson, alone. How I wasn’t yet in graduate school and was scared of what was to come. How I didn’t know then that there would be a full year of waiting and wanting and hoping prior to Ian moving out here to join me. How I hadn’t even begun thinking about the book I’m now working on. There are so many things, since that day, that have gone right. And yet, so much still aches the same.

Before bed, I try to meet my writing goal. I aim for one hour a day. I am trying to finish 100 pages of the manuscript I’m working on by mid-January. Some days, I am excited by my current project. Some days, I am terrified of the work of it. Today, I am tired. When I reach almost one hour, and have hit just over 700 new words, I sit for a moment in silence, before texting Ian to say goodnight. I take off the new black pants and, having decided that they are definitely too big, reattach their tags. I put them back in their box, decide to print the return label and deal with the rest of the process tomorrow, and get in bed.

10. I fall asleep after the 21st has ended listening to the hum of the heater and the yowl of a teenage male yard cat looking for a female in heat.

Emma Thomason has a human body stationed on earth and a mind that is often elsewhere entirely.


Pleasure Horses

My grandmother owns horses. She is too old and too weak to take care of them, and she seldom goes to her barn anymore—seldom stumbles through ice and snow or through the cruel winter winds that blow through vast, barren fields.
     Seven years ago, she fell in the horse barn, and she injured her leg. She crawled through the yard and somehow crawled to her home, and she called my father, who came to help her. Her clothes streaked with horse manure, my father carried her to his vehicle, and he took her to the emergency room. It was an unseasonably warm day in January, and when my father went home, he decided to do some work in our barn. He had a heart attack that afternoon, and he died in what had once been our horse pasture.

My grandmother has a mare and a gelding. The mare’s name is Maddie. The gelding we called Gelding, but some time ago, when I suggested that he be given a real name, my grandmother told me that she’d chosen a name already.
     —His name is Red, she explained.
     My uncle cares for her horses. He’s a horse trainer, and he comes over each day to feed and water her animals.
     I visit her horses also. I bring them apples. The horses are shut in the barn in the winter, but when they see me in the summer, a bag of apples in my hand, the horses run through the pasture to meet me.

The summer after I graduated high school, my grandmother took us horseback riding at a ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She rode a mustang named Lady, and at the end of the trip, my grandmother purchased the horse. We were angry at her. We knew she’d never ride the mustang—would never saddle her even.
     For a time, she had three horses. But Lady fell in the water tank in the horse barn, and she died of her injuries.
     I learned a long time ago that nothing in this world is freely given and that the cost owning animals is one we pay when we lose them.
     I live alone. I have no pets of my own.

Last fall, I heard a coughing in the horse pasture. I wasn’t especially concerned about it. I knew that my uncle would hear it also and that he’d know what to do.
     The coughing continued. My uncle told us that the gelding had pneumonia, and things were touch-and-go for a week or so. The vet was over often, and Red had no interest in apples.
     When the mare got pneumonia a few weeks later, we weren’t worried. She was stronger than Red, and she stayed hungry and fat, and she rushed to my side when she saw me. I brushed dry dirt from her shoulders and neck.

I visit my grandmother at the start of each week. Simple things are difficult for her, so I do whatever needs done. I clean cat-boxes. I take the trash out. I replace the parts in her broken toilet.
     I take more apples to the horse barn. Maddie looks well again, but Red has grown thin. I see his ribs, and his shoulders are sunken. I give the round, fattest apples to him.

Today—this day: December 21, 2019—we have dinner with my grandmother at the Back 40 in Decatur. She wants to thank me for fixing the toilet. She wears a lacy red dress but doesn’t know where it came from. She thinks that my mother bought it for her, but my mother insists that she didn’t. My mother tells my grandmother that the dress is on backward—that the zipper is at her throat instead of on the back of her neck—but my grandmother decides to keep the dress as it is.
     Two waitresses compliment my grandmother on her dress, and at dinner’s end, when my grandmother is opening her Christmas gifts and I am eating a cup of rainbow sherbet, my mother shows me a text she’s received from my uncle. The gelding died in the morning, but my uncle has not told my grandmother. He’s buried the horse in the pasture. He plans to tell her in the morning.
     My grandmother is having a nice time. Despite her hearing loss and her poor eyesight and the dress she wears backward, my grandmother is happy at our dinner table, and we don’t mention the gelding. As the early darkness of the winter solstice swallows the sky outside the restaurant, my grandmother smiles in her backward dress and tell us:
     —We should do this more often.

Casey McConahay's fiction has appeared in Lake Effect, Southern Humanities Review, and other publications. He lives in northwest Ohio.


Someone stole the baby Jesus out of the Nativity Scene in the yard with the anti-abortion and "Jesus es el Rey" signs. Around the corner I run across three deer and a juvenile buck with only one antler. Something is wrong with his right rear leg, too. He won't set it down, and the hoof has grown long from lack of use and wear. I wonder if he's been attacked by other bucks. The raven my friend Elise calls Bud sits on a power line above. I'm guessing he's just come from her house, where he sometimes pilfers cat food from the bowls in her yard.

The trees along Tobias are naked but for more ravens, and mistletoe. The clickity-clicking black birds show themselves in silhouette in the sycamores along Sirretta Street, while the parasitic green pompons favor the gray-barked thornless honey locusts. 

I keep running. I’m slow as I review the morning.

It occurs to me that I’ve become the mean lady. 

That’s me, hands on my hips, head shaking back and forth—the words ‘don’t’ ‘no’ ‘you can’t’ spilling from my lips. Yep, I’m the mean lady who won’t let the kids scooter in her yard. It’s not just the liability I worry about. Although I do worry: What if one of those kids crashes while jumping the bridge over the pond, falls in, cracks his head, and drowns? I’m also concerned about the integrity of the small wooden bridge itself. How much more pounding can it take? And let’s not forget how fucking annoying the noise is. My yard is not a playground, a scooter track. The dogs go nuts. I go nuts. 

I remember the mean lady back when I was the scooter kid. I even named my schnauzer Scooter.
Back then, mean meant anger, disappointment, I’ve done something wrong … again, shattered joy, fun spoiled, you’ve made me feel bad about myself, you’re someone to blame for my ruined fun, you’re someone who wants to spoil my fun, you’re someone I can blame for making me feel bad, you’re not nice, you don’t like kids, you don’t understand.

All right, so I don’t like cranberries. They’re too tart. They cause me to make the pinch face, the one I associate with a certain school teacher, the old-school kind, the one who’s stuck with that pinch face even after she retires from teaching. When she smiles, though, it changes her face. The smile affects you, warms you. You feel like you’ve been rewarded for being the clever boy or the clever girl. I think of the pinch face as the face old ladies make when they’re upbraiding you, making you feel bad, wrong, like you’re never going to get anything right, or be good enough. They—cranberrries—need help to be sweet, to have their sweetness coaxed from them. They need apples—good apples—or oranges or onions. They need a ready disguise.

When I was a little girl, I told myself I would never be that cranberry-faced lady. But I’ve changed. I’ve aged. I scold. But I’m no good, even, at that. I haven’t had enough practice. Dogs need a stern “no!” They don’t require the meandering negotiations of speechified scolding. Though I may project all manner of speeches at them.

Until now, until the scooter kids, I’ve been very good at avoiding such things -- cranberries, scolding children. 

In any case, here I am today, putting the 'mean' in meander. And looking for meaning in 'mean.'

I used to look for meaning in books.

Now I look for meaning in freckles, warts, bowel movements.

I used to look for meaning in songs, their lyrics speaking directly to me.

Now I look for meaning in a list of tasks I can tick off with a gel ink pen.

I used to look for meaning on the faces of my friends. Am I OK? Are we OK?

Now I look for meaning on a bicycle, in hiking boots, with a hat on my head protecting me from sun, or wind, or rain.

I used to look for meaning in endings.

Now I look for meaning in detours.

Ann Beman is Tahoma Literary Review’s nonfiction editor. Beman also serves as prose reviews editor for the Museum of Americana online journal. She’s hatching a series of essays based on the seasons in Kernville, California, where she lives with two whatchamaterriers, a chihuahua, and her husband, on the Kern River, in Kern County. 

Check back tomorrow to read more about What Happened on December 21, 2019. —Ander and Will

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