Sunday, July 1, 2018

July 1: Susan Arthur • Rukmini Girish • Jessie Kraemer • Alexa Weinstein • Kate McGuire • Monica Graff • Ted Simpson • Stefanie Norlin • Casey McConahay • Katelyn Wildman

Today we present ten more dispatches from June 21, 2018 to you. More details on the project here, but, in brief, we asked you to write about what happened on one day in June, and are publishing the results, largely unedited, for the next month and change, roughly ten a day. If you wrote something (it's not too late!), send us your work via this submission form (it's okay if you didn't RSVP before: the more the merrier).

—The Editors

July 1: Susan Arthur • Rukmini Girish • Jessie Kraemer • Alexa Weinstein • Kate McGuire • Monica Graff • Ted Simpson • Stefanie Norlin • Casey McConahay • Katelyn Wildman


Awake too early, a few minutes before 5 AM, with another headache that requires my sitting up to make it go away. I don’t want to, but sleep is lost now.
     Rain overnight, a little bit of drizzle still. Good, no watering today. The first mauve rose is about to open, a deep red climbing rose is close behind it.The rain gives me ten extra minutes to finish painting woodwork and walls. I’ve begun making to-do lists, not new to me, but now I put them in the order they must be done so I don’t find ways to weasel out of something I don’t want to do. Like painting woodwork. This way, I won’t have time to fall into solitaire on my computer (just three games, I con myself, they’re short). 
     The sun appears around noon; I take a book and a cherry yogurt out to the back deck. A fat plume of smoke wafts past, big enough to be from a fire. I sniff. Nothing, no smell, so not smoke. Oh, it’s damp, a lone patch of fog moving from the east side of the yard to the west, heading into the pines. Gone in under a minute. For a moment I am Dorothy: (Things) come and go so quickly here. 
     I mop up a spill in the kitchen. Mouse turds under the stove, on the counter, in the cupboard. Damn. I’ll figure out what to do later. Mouse turds are not on the list.
     I migrate downstairs to my studio—it’s next on the list. I wedge up some reclaimed clay to throw on my wheel for the center of a sculpture I’m working on. First, second, third try, all collapse. I know to stop for the day when I have too many consecutive failures. I’ll try again tomorrow.  
     I prod my husband to go to a community party at the Japanese garden nearby. 
     “Free food,” I say. “We don’t have to talk to anybody.” 
     We toss the introvert ball back and forth between us, the loser has to take the social lead. A young woman—younger than we are anyway—introduces herself and we spend an easy few minutes in small talk. We wander through the late Spring garden: rhodies in fat, eye-searing red bloom, dogwoods fading, hydrangeas pushing out green buds that will become full blown mop heads. I keep one eye on the ground for snakes (rare) and the other on foliage for ticks (common).
     First mosquito bite of the season. It swells rapidly, stretching the skin on my hand into a smooth, pale, itchy bump. 
     After our half-hearted, rapidly assembled dinner of tortellini in a sausage-tomato sauce, we head upstairs to watch Rachel Maddow report on Trump’s most recent miscreant behavior. He is punishing desperate immigrant families by taking children away from their parents. On her visit to the children’s camps, his wife wears a jacket that has text scrawled on the back: I really don’t care. Do U?
     But I care. How can this be happening? I google places to donate. RAICES. ACLU. Act Blue. My life is so easy, so normal, compared to what these families are going through. 
     I fall asleep listening to the whip-poor-will. His calls begins at twilight; it’s the latest night of the year for him. I hope he eats the mosquito that bit me. 
—Susan Arthur

Susan Arthur is an artist and writer. She has an MFA in visual arts from Vermont College. Her work can be found at


Watch “11 Times Mohammed Salah Used Magic in Football.” Tempted by “20 Ridiculous Goalkeeper Mistakes” but decide Beyoncé is more important. “Formation” is preceded by an ad for a TV show called Queen of the South, in which a white woman storms angrily through a hallway. Smile at the irony. As usual, pause to try and decipher whether “Yoncé” is a commentary on fame or another seductive party song. Still haven’t reached a decision. Double check the online portal through which I submit my book reviews. Have had an irrational fear that my last one didn’t go through. It did. Return to Youtube, but decide not to watch the new video for “APES**T” now. That’s the portal to a Youtube rabbit hole and 4 am. 
     Shut down the computer and kill an insect on the wall. Is it a baby cockroach? Not sure. Don’t really want to know. Flush it. Brush. Floss. Wash my face. Swallow my multivitamin and my flax oil capsule with a glass of water. Chicago weather’s been weird this week. Turn on the fan? No. It will be too cold. Should change my sheets. Should also do laundry. But that will have to wait until the weekend. Need new sheets anyway. 
     1:12 AM. Lights out. Guess I’m not waking up at seven to watch the World Cup.

So dark that I wonder whether the alarm’s gone off too early this time instead of not going off at all. Then I hear the rain. I push the alarm another half an hour. No way I’m biking anywhere today. It’s still dark and still raining at 8:30. There’s homemade hot cocoa mix in the cupboard from the office white elephant, and it would be nice to settle down with a cup. No time for that. I shower, the water fills the tub a quarter of the way and I really should use the other half of that bottle of Liquid Plumr. I take the alley to the Red Line though I know that’s a bad idea. There is a lake. My shoes are soaked. It’s raining so hard that my jeans are soaked too in spite of the umbrella.
     This is like the monsoons in Chennai, and that time we got so wet on the sports field that they canceled school so we wouldn’t have to sit there, wet, all day. 
     But no one’s canceling rehearsal, though Z is soaked too. A and E arrive, and we move at less than full speed with one person missing. E and I rehearse choreographed intimacy as Z plays his ukulele in the background. As usual, I feel self-conscious. Perhaps I feel like a fraud. Perhaps I just don’t like being ridiculous. A conversation about how none of us has been in a really long-term relationship.

I arrive at work awkwardly early, and though it’s only noon, I am hungry. I heat up my noodles, with the frozen potatoes and mushrooms from Trader Joe’s, and eat while I read an article about the Democratic party’s flawed view of identity politics. I have already read too many articles about what’s going on at the border.
     I talk briefly with M, one of the new interns, who is from Mumbai, and is pleasantly surprised to hear that I am from Chennai. She describes the jitters she gets when she’s away from Mumbai for eighteen months like caffeine withdrawal. We dance around the word “home.” This doesn’t feel like the right place for that discussion, as people chatter over the chicken and pasta and vegetables behind us.
     I text L happy birthday, and then clock in. My backpack has gotten so wet that even my lanyard feels clammy when I hang it round my neck.

J asks me to come up with an incentive for the fundraising campaign coming up next month. Sitting around like this, the cold seems to have sunk through a few layers of skin below my jeans. 
     Suddenly, there is a new half-price promotion on tickets and we have to come up with a script to sell it and everything becomes a mad dash to 5 pm, when the calling shift will start. I clock out for my half-hour break, go down to the box office and chat with K and S for a little while, then stare at my phone in the break room. I text N and we decide to see Ocean’s 8 next week. I start an eight-hour Herbology class in Hogwarts Mystery and play until my energy runs out. My energy feels like it’s running out in real life too. I am still cold. I clock back in at 4:40 and help with final changes to the script. We go over it with everyone and then get on the phones.
     I find this transition hard to make today. I have spent most of the last four hours figuring out how to keep the cogs spinning, and now I am a cog. People hang up on me once, twice, thrice. I start to wonder about whether it is just me and my accent and my audible foreign-ness. I stop myself. That is never a comfortable train of thought. Between calls, I read about the World Cup matches. Argentina lost to Croatia. Croatia? I text K happy birthday too. B tells us about a true-crime series on Netflix in which a woman who was supposedly pushed down the stairs to her death by her husband was really attacked by an owl. They found owl feathers in the lacerations on her scalp.
     I eat a bowl of palak paneer for dinner.
     There’s nothing much to distract me on Facebook. Everybody is outraged about I.C.E and the new border legislation and the jacket Melania wore to a detention center. I feel too cavalier thinking this, but the greyness of the day and the coldness of my legs has made everything seem hopeless. I can hear the strain behind the cheerfulness in my voice, as I say, “Hi my name is Rukmini and I’m calling from…” again and again. The Bulls have chosen Wendell Carter Jr. with the number 7 pick.
     We make our last call at 8:55 and I clock out at 8:56. My jeans are now dry from knee to mid-calf.

When I reach my building, I see that a book has arrived in the mail. Finally, I go into my apartment, stop on the doormat, take off my shoes and socks and examine my feet.
     The tips of my toes are white. The skin is peeling off my soles. It has raised itself up in an amoebic formation, like a hollow blister. I hobble around on my toes and heels so I don’t drop petrified skin on the floor. I wash my hands and pull on dry pants. This would have been a relief, but I am too distracted. My feet remind me of specimens in glass bottles in the biology lab.
     The squeezing of the skin peeling off sounds like plastic. Perhaps this is where they got the idea for Saran wrap. What is revealed looks raw and hurts a little. I hobble to the bathroom to wash my hands again. I can feel a current of air on the newly-exposed soles of my feet.
     I was going to write, but I am too shaken by seeing hidden parts of my body. I will turn on The Office instead for background noise.
     The theme song is playing when I notice the book I abandoned on my desk. It’s in one of those vacuum-sealed envelopes. I cut an end off and peel the packing skin away. 
     The book is called The Body. That, and the skin I have peeled off my feet, is all I have left of this day.

Rukmini Girish

Rukmini Girish usually writes about performance, identity and the intersections between those topics. She earned an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia College Chicago, and was named a Luminarts Creative Writing Fellow for 2018.


I was a moose for three hours. I had to move the puppet from my right hand to my left, that's how long I was a moose. The kid would put the little duck whose eyes popped out into the mouth of the moose puppet and say this time it'll taste like coffee and yogurt and bananas and poop. I would be the moose and I would say, this duck tastes like coffee and yogurt and bananas and poop. And then the moose would barf a lot. The moose would barf for a long time. And then we would play hide and go seek with the duck and the moose for about an hour. And every time the duck would hide under the blanket. 
     I began to cry. The kid said you're just joking. I said I'm not. He said why are you crying. I said it's just been a really hard day. And he said would a hug calm you down. And I said yeah a little hug.
     I lifted up the moose. Why are you droopy? Why is the moose droopy? 
     The moose said I'm not droopy, I just woke up from a nap.
     All week he had had this running-away thing, so the plan was to give him a break space in which he could regain his composure before returning to class. It was called ‘the quiet room.’ The sound booth at the back of the theatre. But once he was in the quiet room, with the duck, with the moose, with me, he saw no reason to leave. If I suggested it he would scream and hit me. So he did not return to class. And so I did not return to class. Nor could I even reach out and grab his wrist if he began to run, which he did. Really, officially, I could only reach out and grab him if he was about to run into traffic, which he had done already on Tuesday. 
     In the room, I sat on the big block so the rest of the class and the other teaching artist could see us from the stage through the big window if they looked. On stage they were in the magical underwater world.
     I didn't get to play the pirate today. I saw the other teacher Sydney playing the pirate, standing like Sydney with Sydney's arms and Sydney's hands and a piano scarf around one eye. Through the window I heard Sydney's normal voice, and remembered my pirate voice, swab the deck, etc., how the children had called me a girl pirate, and how it was encouraging to break the glass ceiling on piracy, but that I had not thought of my pirate as being a girl at all. 
     I could see Sydney had two complete hands. There was no hook hand. The children on stage pointed back at the booth, through the window, to where I was. Ann Marie explained to them mutely that Sydney was the pirate today. They played the game where they caught the shark by standing in a circle. They relearned the parts of the ship. Bow port stern starboard.
     You're not paying attention and you let me die. The duck said to the moose. I fell and you didn't catch me and now I'm dead. 
     Down there I saw a boy scooting across the stage like a starfish. 
     I lifted up my moose. I thought of the day before when the kid was clinging to the second floor lobby railing. Where I had chased him, where he had run after being criticized in front of the others for some mild classroom transgression. He clung. He looked at me and asked, what would you do if I hurt myself? What would you do if I jumped?
     Sydney who had run up behind me was quiet. I don't remember if I lifted up my palms. I did not say anything out of respect for the question. Which came to me as very wise and very direct and very honest, from this very wise, direct and honest and important place. The kid, who was not trying to deceive or push around or manipulate, was just trying to, as grandly, as simply as possible, as earnestly, communicate the very deep feeling.
     All of it was clarifying to hear aloud. Clarifying, even not knowing what was going on with his family, his brother, his single mom, with any adult in his life or any child, any event or environment. It was clarifying to know that in that moment it was of greatest necessity that I look in his eyes, clinging to the steps railing, and hear his question, and see him see me hearing him. And I didn’t say anything, these also being my questions.
     After the eternity of moosing, class is over for the day. I leave the quiet room. I walk with our full class out to the patio for pickup. The kid is at the front of the line. Riley is close behind. Riley says all her gs as ds. Oh my dod, she says. She beams, holding her lunchbox with both hands. She says, I know what my phone number is going to be when my mom dies: it's going to be my mom's phone number. 
     Walking home after work, I remember my morning in reverse. How I walked down the hill past the big red and white tower. How there was no group of strangers waiting at my first crosswalk. How I looked up to realize how many wires there were, for the bus zipline, the traffic lights.
     And how this morning leaving the back alley gate I almost stepped into the path of a Charlie's Produce truck. How the driver had a little fear in his eyes along with the yellow vest. How it felt warm to warrant concern.
     It will be the case tomorrow that we try to make the quiet room less of an attraction, to encourage the kid to rejoin his peers in the magical underwater world, in the drama camp that he has paid for. My supervisor Laura will sit in the room, and I will prepare to be the pirate on stage. Three minutes in, Laura will respectfully decline to play the moose. And after hitting Laura, he will run out of the room, out of the theatre, out of the building, and out to the sidewalk where a third party will see him and file a formal complaint against us for mismanaging a child. He will be ushered gently to the office where he will throw two chairs and inexplicably demand orange juice after seeing cans of tangerine San Pellegrino. I will not be the pirate. I will lean against the green wall outside Laura's office, trying not to hate myself and listening to the kid navigate, quite deftly, the unknown path towards what he doesn't know he wants.
     For tonight, however, I live in ignorance of this escalation. 
     When I get home, I find on my bedroom floor a loaf of bread that has been carved by small bites, really gently, like the beginning of a canoe from a solid piece. I set it in the compost. The dog pushes open my door when I’m nearly asleep. I leave the light on low for a while.

—Jessie Kraemer

Jessie is an essayist and TEFL teacher. She graduated from VCU where she worked on staff at Blackbird


What Happened on June 21, 2018 in Stinson Beach, California

At 5:17 a.m. I’m having my 4 a.m. wake-up a little late, because we all stayed up to watch Trading Places. My teenage nephew has gotten way into movies and had never seen it. There was a lot more showing-naked-titties-for-no-reason than anyone remembered, a woman getting groped by Jim Belushi as a funny ha-ha joke, that very disturbing gag where The Bad Guy is getting repeatedly raped by a gorilla, and Dan Aykroyd in blackface. WTF? Also, his relationship with the Jamie Lee Curtis prostitute character is super weird and makes no sense. The casual sexism and racism of the 80s! Come on, it’s no big deal, lighten up. We’re just having fun. But my daughter is the youngest kid here and she’s already heard me talk about all these things a million times so there we were, wading through all this exhausting old crap but then laughing really hard anyway, because Eddie Murphy is fucking hilarious.
     I can’t sit all the way up in this bottom bunk bed and I’m holding an ice cube against my sunburned nose. Can’t remember if it does anything but it feels right. The burn looks better than I feared but hurts worse. Really it’s the whole left side of my face. I was vaguely aware that the hat wasn’t covering anything when we were lying on our sides on the beach, but I was having such a great conversation with Judy. We hardly ever get to see each other, and after she has the baby she won’t be able to talk like that, uninterrupted, for years. I wonder if she knows this.

At 10:34 a.m. I’ve been to the beach with my mom and the dogs. It was gorgeous and blue but there was a guy who stopped and immediately began mansplaining dogs to us, telling my mom about her own dog. Either of us could have been the world’s foremost authority on canine behavior, and he would never have found this out. Then another guy drove up in a buggy to tell us we were on the no-dogs part of the beach. Our conversation was somewhat hampered by these events. Also, I had a worry that I couldn’t let go: what if an important call about the exciting new possible job had come in this week, and I had gone days without returning it? I knew I wasn’t getting calls, but it turned out I wasn’t even getting messages. Wrong network, had to call voicemail but didn’t know the PIN, blah blah blah. Long story short, no one called. I did not make a terrible mistake and ruin everything.

At 1:54 p.m. everyone has gone into the water and given me a minute alone. I’ve been paying attention to the difference between fourth graders and fifth graders: my niece and her friend want to lie on towels in the sun and talk quietly, daring each other to go up to people and do things, while my daughter still wants to play in the sand. And to the changes in my sister’s voice when she’s talking about different parts of her life. And to the warmth of the sun on my skin. I hate that I have to be vigilant and defensive toward something I love so much. See above re: 80s comedy.
     I wish I could paint this, these bands of color, starting at my feet and going out and away.

Large expanse of light sand, not white but very pale, in small mounds and the color has a round feeling also, the whole band sort of rolling and spreading and filling up the bottom of the frame

Thinner strip of dark sand, a more diagonal wedge, wavy at its borders and dotted with bodies

Band of alternating stripes: the white of the breaking foam and the iridescent gunmetal blue of the shallows, reflecting the light of the sky as it bounces back up from the sand, freshly sheened

The curling wave, green rolling into white, one end always building as the other end is crashing

Solid field of color, almost as thick as the band of white sand, a green-blue that’s apparently between teal and ming but that must have been uniquely invented today, everywhere sparkling

Very very thin charcoal stripe at the very very end of the green-blue and growing out of it, pencil

Slightly thicker bright stripe that glows just like the light around a person in front of a dark wall

Hazy purple-grey stripe, just the height of the low cliffs on either side, a paradoxical perfect inch

Grey smoke rising, thinning and dispersing up and up, as color at this point becomes movement: shimmering columns, the physical lifting and wincing of your eyelids, tipping back your whole head, speechless reeling, and now there’s no word for it but sky blue, all the way out of the park.

At 5:38 p.m. I’m showered and so happy to be in black jeans and a green hoodie, my back to the sun in an outdoor chair in the courtyard of this house, in the quiet before we make dinner. When a house isn’t yours but you aren’t a real guest either, the host absent and unknown, it’s like a public garden or a museum. You are just passing through, slowly observing.
     I’ve been reading this book by Carlo Rovelli, a theoretical physicist: The Order of Time. He’s saying we have this idea that there’s such a thing as a universal present, a moment in time that exists throughout the universe, a now that has meaning everywhere. This feels natural and intuitive, but in fact it’s an idea we all got from Newton. Just this one guy, with this incredibly influential idea. But in fact, there’s no such thing as a present moment that spreads throughout the universe. If my sister is on another planet light-years away and I ask what she’s doing right now, the answer is that the question makes no sense. There’s no way to answer it, because there’s no way to translate my now into her now. We have different nows that can never be reconciled. The present time of the Earth is just a bubble that hovers around our planet; no other part of the universe shares our now in any meaningful way. And if you scale this down, it applies on all the smaller levels. Even when my sister is across the room, what she’s doing “right now” from my perspective is actually what she was doing when the light that’s reaching me now left her body. The timescale has grown tiny but the same thing is still true: my now is not her now.
     I keep thinking about those kids separated from their parents at the border, and how their present is related to the present of these kids, in this family, right now. By the time the light travels from those locked-up kids to me and my mom and my sisters, refracted through the news, we are learning about a moment in which those kids are no longer living. Something new is happening to them now, something better or something even worse. And then the received signal bounces off of us, is translated through conversation—the words we say and the words we don’t, the images we pass on or keep to ourselves—and it’s this reflected light that reaches our own children. We protect them from even the story of it. The full horror. The locked-up kids and our free kids are living in entirely different frames of reference, entirely different times. You could call it a parallel universe, a different fabric of spacetime. You wouldn’t be wrong.
     But it’s also true that those kids and these kids are living in the very same time, a shared present. Their fates are deeply connected. You can’t care desperately about one while hardening your heart to the other. And even when the monster who locked up the kids changes his mind, they are still where they are, facing what they’re facing. Locked in their present, which forever carries the imprint of its own past. The now that we do share will always drag the weight of these events behind it, even as it slides forward into its future. From other parts of the universe, this story is ancient history or a dystopian future novel. But inside the bubble of this planet, this story belongs to everyone who shares the same collective experience of the present, even if that collective is made up of billions of present moments, slightly out of sync. Those kids are crying right now. They don’t understand what’s happening right now. No one will let them talk to their mom or dad right now. A scary man in a uniform is locking them up right now. Right now. Right now. We are checking our children’s foreheads, making them eggs, putting pillows under their injured legs, asking what they want to drink right now. Right now. Right now.

Around 9, after doing some dishes, I went outside and listened to what people were saying around the fire.
     Did you know we both went there? Giants in the front, let me hear you grunt.
     What are designer drugs?
     She literally hates him. She thinks he smells weird.
     Does anybody have a stick?
     I would make him laugh until he died. And I’d be a cool stepmom.
     Ew, you’re biting it!
     He’s kind of a douche-rocket, but I seriously love his clothes.
     This is the first night we could do this. It was so windy I couldn’t even get a match lit.
     I want to do something simple again.

Past 10, I’m the only one left out by the fire. Cold back and hot, hot shins. I sort of want music but already have the fire in one ear and the ocean in the other. Fingers of orange flame are curling around the log in front from below, gaseous purple shooting up from the log behind, bending over to slap the butte on top. Licking it all over.
     Fuck it. I’m going for music in one ear and fire/ocean in the other. I want it all. What will the random bring?
     At 10:26 p.m., I am listening to “Die Tonight” by Ty Segall.
     If someone could take me through a montage of every time in my life I’ve sat watching logs burn down—if I could enter each scene and spend one minute in her body and her head and briefly become her again, look around and take a deep breath, even the scenes where I was engulfed by shame or utterly heartbroken or hating my own fucking guts—right now I feel like I would give up my right to see all other movies forever, just for the chance to see that one.
     Van Morrison, “Virgo Clowns.”
     I’m tired and my eyes are stinging madly from sunscreen and overexposure and smoke, but I can’t leave the fire yet.
     The Velvet Underground, “What Goes On.” I would never lie about something like this. Sometimes you just get lucky.
     The log in the back has become an owl with the craggy face of a man. The one in front has a carrying handle. Actually the whole front log is shaped like a pitcher, a beer stein. That final glorious minute of two guitars, and suddenly the man-faced owl has a burning hole in the exact shape of an ear, exactly where its ear would be. I shit you not.
     In a few minutes I’ll decide it’s time to go to bed, but first I’ll have to dump out a bunch of useless spatulas and use the jug thing that was holding them to douse the fire and bring in the s’mores stuff and douse once more for good measure and decide what to do with the gooey sticks and find my book and let my niece who’s recovering from knee surgery use the bathroom so she won’t have to wait around on crutches and take a spider out of the bathroom and decide it’s the same spider I took outside the night before and floss and brush and start to lie down and get up again to take out another, even bigger spider, because if my daughter sees this one, forget it, and by the time I actually crawl into that awkward bottom bunk, it will be 11:55 p.m. on the longest day of the year. I will lie there and listen to the raspy breaths of my most beloved person, a few feet above me. Under the same roof with these other beloveds, uniquely beloved to each other, everyone woven into this web with all of its damages and complications. I’ll be plagued by everything I wasn’t able to say, because how do you begin to say it. What if we—. How can they even—. So luckily, so unfairly, I will fall asleep within reach of my baby, safe as houses. As we sleep, all of our possible futures will be piecing themselves together. We’ll be inching forward, each of us dragging the cone of where we’ve been, breath by breath and hoping for the best.

—Alexa Weinstein

Alexa Weinstein is a writer/editor/teacher in Portland, Oregon. 


Waking up is a struggle. We are both tired from the emotional exertions of the last few weeks. 
     The headlines on the BBC Today programme at 7am, when the alarm goes off, proclaim Trump’s executive order halting the policy of separating children from their parents when they arrive at the US border as “illegal” immigrants, and a story about a hospital in Hampshire accused of hastening the death of hundreds of patients through the deliberate over-use of opioid painkillers. 
     My partner’s mother, Olga, died on Sunday night, from cancer. She’s been in a hospice for several weeks, being given huge doses of multiple different painkillers in an only partially successful attempt to reduce her excruciating pain. The juxtaposition of that experience with today’s news makes me wonder what’s right, in what circumstances. When my cat was beyond treatment and living a life of no quality, we had him put to sleep. We were unable to do the same for my mother-not-in-law, despite her saying she wanted it, more than once.
     We eat breakfast in bed, as always. My partner, Matthew, reads his briefing notes for the day ahead and I skim-read the newspaper headlines. I can’t bear to do more than that, the news is full of such energy-sapping accounts of nasty human behaviour, reported in an overly simplistic way. It’s a relief when I get to the “lifestyle” section where I can read meaningless and unhate-filled articles about what swimming costume I should be wearing this summer and the latest celebrity movie project.
     We get up, shower, and get dressed. 
     Matthew goes to work and I address myself to my laptop. The urge to file and paint my nails takes over. I’m confused by someone posting on Facebook that today is the beginning of longer days, until I remember she now lives in Australia. A connected world of polar opposites. Then, via Twitter - more displacement activity - I discover this essay project and here I am. I want to write. I try. But I’m aware of the lurking dark dread of how hard it is to do well, the relentlessness of the task, how high the possibility for failure. I try to put those thoughts into a dark cupboard with a locked door but they keep escaping. 
     This project gives me a focus, and I feel my spirits lift. I love the concept of a “day diary”. I keep a journal most days. It’s supposed to support my professional development (I even wrote a dissertation once about how that was supposed to work) but mostly it’s just random outpourings of whatever is in my mind that day. This project gives purpose to today’s journal as well as casting a glimmer of possibility onto how I might use the raw material for future, as yet undreamt of, novels. 
     We are waiting for the birth of grandchild number two, the second great-grandchild of the woman who died on Sunday night. The first of many things she didn’t live to see. We were supposed to be taking her to Glyndebourne next weekend, a shockingly expensive, glorious experience, wafting around the grounds of a country manor house in a dinner jacket and a posh frock and laughing in a superior manner at the people who didn’t get the memo about the dress code. She won’t get to do this, or to hear superb opera in a beautiful auditorium. 
     A video conference call with my colleague on how to take forward our work together. She’s preparing to speak at a networking event this evening for women working in the digital economy and I’m off to the shops to buy a pair of black court shoes suitable for a funeral. 
     I fail with the shoes. 
     Matthew is home earlier than expected. We chat about nothing much, then I get down to some dull paperwork about the lease on our apartment building.
     I’m beginning to organise the pile of things I need for Olga’s funeral and an imminent holiday. It includes pairs of shoes I already own that are funeral-appropriate but not quite perfect. 
     Dying for a nap. Pardon the expression, in this week of death.
     A visit from another apartment owner in the building, joint director of our freehold company, to sign the accounts. 
     I cook supper while Matthew finishes his VAT return. 
     We watch the final episode of Patrick Melrose on catch-up. Benedict Cumberbatch is superb, as is the script. A surprisingly hope-inducing story.
     We wash up the supper dishes, then chat about some of the things we haven’t been able to share over the last few weeks because we’ve been sitting by a bedside waiting for death. Me writing this essay, writing generally. Upcoming holidays. The beautiful summer weather. Preparations for Matthew’s Mum’s funeral. We laugh at how much she would have enjoyed the party we are planning, and cry that she won’t be there. 
     We go to bed and make love. We fall asleep. 

—Kate McGuire

Kate McGuire is a London-based leadership and life coach, founder of Fenner McGuire Ltd, and an aspiring writer.


Another Day in New York: June 21, 2018

It’s a dark and stormy morning, so we make love and then we make the bed. 
     As I brush my teeth, Chris gets dressed, even though his morning walk will have to wait. According to the AccuWeather app the rain is supposed to last another seventy-two minutes. So he goes upstairs to make a hot cup of lemon water and I queue up a Barre3 workout on my laptop. 
     My yoga mat, really a throw rug, sits between the cat’s food bowl and litter box, so when I’m in downward dog pose I get a strong whiff of Bosworth’s breakfast—before and after he eats it. As I follow along with Ronni, Bonnie, and that other gal who likes to “take it turbo,” I remind myself that I’m almost twice their age, so it’s OK if my carousel horse pose looks like that of a lethargic mare. 
     Afterward I shower and spray an assortment of styling products onto my silver hair, hoping for a hip and flirty effect. Seems silver is in now, so I’m grateful for the good timing. I look in the magnifying mirror searching for new wrinkles, then smear retinol cream all over my face and neck and even my ears, which lately have started to resemble dried apricots. Then I squeeze fifteen drops of Pure Kana CBD oil under my tongue and go upstairs for a banana.
     On the way I pass Chris in the living room staring at his iPad. (Note: the layout of our 173-year-old Greenwich Village apartment is strange. The bedrooms are downstairs in the former scullery, and the kitchen and living areas are upstairs on the parlor level.) Chris wants to know if our password for Amazon Prime has changed. These are the sort of things I can’t remember, so I go back downstairs to my office and open a computer file containing all my passwords, wondering why in the heck someone can’t invent a better way to protect one’s privacy.
     I text Chris from my desk: “Pword hasn’t changed.” He writes back that it doesn’t matter because he has decided to set up a new account for Alexa. Alexa is the AI gizmo he’s ordered to do stuff inside our apartment like turn on the TV or change the radio station. At least that’s what I think it does. I’m not really sure.
     “Why a new account?” I type. While I’m waiting for his reply, I stand up and start doing jumping jacks because today’s workout, selected by someone or thing named Tiffany at Barre3 online, was a mere ten minutes long. Tiffany sends me emails that say things like “You’re crushing it!” after I stream one of the exercise videos. But, come on, if an entire workout takes only ten minutes and includes zero cardio, am I really crushing anything? I don’t think so, Tiffany.
     While I clap my hands over my head and breathlessly count to fifty, Chris’s reply pops up on my computer screen: “I’m setting up a new account so hopefully she won’t call me Monica.” I could make an issue out of this. Why shouldn’t Alexa use my name instead of his? But instead I send a laughing face emoji and close the laptop. It’s time to meditate and then work on the collection of essays that thus far I’ve only talked about.
     But first a cup of tea. While I mindlessly wait for the water to boil, my phone vibrates and lights up. It’s a message from an app I downloaded several months ago called WeCroak. It says, “Reminder: Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” I get five death-related quotations a day because, according to WeCroak, the people of Bhutan believe contemplating death five times a day brings happiness. I tap the app to find the following quotation waiting for me:
     “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” —Lewis Carroll
     Does this bring me happiness? Hm, not yet. Maybe later. But it does seem like good writing advice.
     I take my cup of tea over to the old comfy chair where Bosworth is waiting for me. I put on my headphones, open the Calm app on my phone, and listen to the day’s guided meditation. It’s my seventy-fourth session since May 15, and today’s theme is “the habit of thinking.” The guide’s smiling voice speaks directly into my ear: “You don’t have to follow a thought just because it pops into your head.” 
     Interesting. Obviously there’s some truth to that statement, but I can’t help but wonder what Montaigne would have to say about it.
     After ten minutes of focusing on the space between my nostrils, I get up and do another fifty jumping jacks to pep up. The meditation guide’s magical-forest-fairy voice has made me sleepy and the day hasn’t even officially started. 
     I decide to eat my breakfast of yogurt and berries in the garden to get some relatively fresh air. I say relatively because the restaurant on the other side of our fence makes its own herb-marinated smoked bacon from scratch, and their vent points directly into our outdoor seating area. 
     As I watch a bee hover at the three-tiered water fountain I bought online a few weeks ago, I notice its paint is already peeling. I’ll have to write Home Depot about it, I think to myself, maybe even send a photo. Bosworth walks back and forth across my lap, dragging his tail over my bowl of yogurt as I ponder just the right word combination to convey my sincere disappointment in their product. 
     I go back inside to put my dirty bowl in the dishwasher and see that it needs to be emptied, so I turn up the radio and get busy. Ingrid Michaelson sings “I just want to know today, know today, know today,” and I sing along with her. “I just want to be OK, be OK, be OK ….”
     Uh oh, what’s happening? My eyes are welling up. Why? I sing louder and twirl around with forks and spoons in my hand.
     Still humming the tune, I go back downstairs to fix my hair, put on a little makeup, and get dressed. I look in the full-length mirror and see, once again, that my four-foot-eleven frame has become all boobs. They’re bigger and longer than ever, and my neck and shoulders pay the price, getting stiffer and more painful with each passing year.  I wonder if I should get a breast reduction. 
     I’ve had this idea before, many times, but I always talk myself out of it. Too expensive, too frivolous, too dangerous. I could die. Look at what happened to Kanye West’s mom. While I Google “New York breast reduction surgeons,” Chris comes into the bedroom to remind me that we have an escape room game reserved for three o’clock. 
     “What do you think about me getting my boobs reduced?” I ask. 
     “This again?” he says. “I thought you decided not to.”
     “Well, I’m reconsidering. How about this guy?” I turn my laptop screen toward him. “He looks like Mr. Rogers, and the testimonials from his patients are really good. One woman even said that ‘Dr. K— is proof that good people still exist.’”
     Chris shrugs. “I think you should do whatever makes you happy. I know if I had two heavy things hanging off of me, I’d find it pretty uncomfortable.” I remind myself that Chris can no better understand what it’s like to have breasts than I can know what it’s like for him to have testicles. But, still, they both seem like design flaws.
     Later that afternoon at Mission Escape Games in Chinatown we sit in the over-air-conditioned waiting room while six little boys get debriefed on their game, Escape the Nemesis. A twenty-something employee with a blonde ponytail tells them that they’re about to get locked in a room together for one hour, or until they solve the puzzle and find the key that lets them out. One boy, who is probably six years old, says “Scary!” I agree. Six six-year-olds let loose in a room with no way out? What if they kill each other … or ruin the furniture?
     “Let’s go to the library instead,” says a boy.
     “Ew, no! The library is my nemesis!” says another one.
     While we’re waiting, my phone buzzes. I take it out of my purse and read the screen. “Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” I tap the app and read the quote:
     “A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.” —Oscar Wilde
     A tall athletic guy wearing a T-shirt that says “Think you’ve got game?” comes over to us and I shove the phone back into my purse. He introduces me and Chris to our partners, Karen and Joe, who, it just so happens, have done sixty escape rooms in San Francisco, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Austin, and elsewhere. Chris and I have never been in an escape room in our lives. In fact, I’m not really sure what I’ve agreed to, but I take comfort in the fact that it seems to be a game for little kids too.
     We’re led down a hall to a room with a fake fireplace, some antique furniture, and a few pieces of art. On a chess table sits an empty bottle of booze and two glasses. Our experience is called “Escape the Hideout,” and the woman who explained the game to the little boys now explains ours to us. “The good Dr. Jekyll has been acting strangely for weeks and has gone missing. A crazy fellow has been causing chaos in town so you’ve been hired to investigate. Can you find out what happened to Dr. Jekyll before it is too late?”
     She shows us where to hang our belongings and tells us not to destroy the furniture. Then she locks the door behind her from the outside.
     While I bumble around the escape room looking for clues, Karen and Joe methodically rip the place apart. Karen finds a book with a highlighted passage. Joe finds a letter. Chris finds four transparencies with big black numbers on them. A big screen on the wall counts down our time. There are cameras watching us, and we can stand in front of the big screen and ask for up to three clues to find the key that will open the door and let us out. 
     I caress the underside of every piece of furniture like a DEA agent and finally find a few chess pieces in a drawer but nothing else. I wander around trying to look like I’m working an angle while everyone else has something substantial to work with. Finally, I just stare at a framed deck of cards on the wall. First I count the cards across, then down, then I start looking for patterns. What are the cards trying to say? 
     “Got it!” says Joe. He’s been standing behind me. “Put these numbers into the lock.” He calls out numbers from three cards and Chris dials the tumbler on a padlock securing a chest drawer. Inside the drawer sits the key to our freedom and we escape eighteen minutes early. 
     So much for solving a mystery this afternoon.
     Walking down Broadway in the hot sun, I yell above the car horns and delivery trucks to Chris a few steps behind me. “That sucked! I hate games like that. Don’t ever take me to one of those stupid things again. I felt like an idiot in front of those people!” 
     Chris defends the game, emphasizing that it was our first try and that Joe and Karen have been at it for who knows how long. “Besides,” he says, “I thought you were really good at it.”
     “What? How could you possibly think that? I stared at that stupid deck of cards on the wall for practically the whole time while Scully and Mulder were busy finding glow-in-the-dark passwords in the paintings and symbols on the wine bottle.” 
     Just then we came upon a site my mind could hardly make sense of: an young cat in the middle of the sidewalk staring up a tree, right there in Chinatown, with an ambulance screaming past her and people stepping over her tail. Two kids and a dad stopped to pet her, but she didn’t move a paw. She just sat there and stared at whatever she had treed. So focused and full of purpose.
     I want to be like that cat. 
     On the next block we stop in at Timbuktu del Blaoui on 2nd Avenue. I try on a Muslim-style tunic, fondle bowls made of Moroccan cedar, and talk to the shop owner, a slim gray-headed man, about the cat we saw and the neighborhood and the wonders of Morocco. He recognizes that Chris’s bracelet was made by a Scandinavian Sami and they talk about Norway, Iceland, Finland, and the Faroe Islands. 
     Next we decide on a whim to pop into the Pageant Print Shop on East 4th Street. It’s a funky little store filled with antique maps and illustrations. But this shop owner isn’t like the other one. She demands I hand over my big green bag, stashes it by the counter, and gives me a surly look. I ask if this is her store and she answers “maybe.” 
     As I flip through the prints arranged like albums in a music store, I can feel the woman’s eyes on me. I feel guilty, like I’ve stolen something. “How long have you been here?” I ask. She licks her thumb and works her way through a stack of yellow receipts. She’s a big woman, far too large for the stool she’s sitting on, and from her platform at the back of the narrow shop, she looks like one of the barristers in the Vanity Fair prints hanging on the wall. Without looking up, she says flatly, “Since noon.” 
     “Amazing,” I say. “You’ve accumulated quite a collection of maps in just six hours.” Then I force a fake-sugar smile to hide my irritation at being treated like a street urchin. I keep flipping through the animal prints and find a drawing of a lion’s lung from 1847. I pull it from the stack and examine it. Would it be too weird to hang over my desk?
     I look at the woman and see that her eyes have now narrowed. Apparently she doesn’t find me funny. I carefully return the print to its place and ask for my bag. This is the first rude New Yorker I’ve met personally since we moved here from Montana in April. 
     As Chris and I step out into the street, I stand tall and try to shake her off. “If she weren’t such a bitch, I’d probably buy something from her store. She had some cool stuff.”
     “Oh, that’s just her schtick,” he says. “Don’t take it personally.”
     “I thought schticks were supposed to be funny.”
     “Maybe it’s funny to her.”
     “Didn’t seem like it.”
     Over a Red Tears Martini (Raspberry Tea Gin, Saint Germain, lime juice) at Misirizzi across the street, I think about sending her some flowers anonymously, just to cheer her up. That would be the right thing to do to rebalance the karma of our testy little interaction, I think. But then I decide against it. I can’t imagine she would find a random act of kindness delightful. It would probably only piss her off. Whatever has made that woman so bitter isn’t going to be fixed by a bouquet of buttercups.
     I take a sip of martini and my phone vibrates on the bar. A message from WeCroak appears: “Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” I open the app.
     “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” —Mahatma Gandhi
     I decide that’s a good quote, but I feel like I’m doing these things already. Or trying to. Maybe I should try harder. Maybe I should write this message to accompany that termagant's bouquet of buttercups.
     Chris doesn’t like the vibe of Misirizzi or the cigarette smoke that’s wafting in from the sidewalk, so we leave the bar to have dinner at Cotenna on Bedford Street. We have to sit at the bar because the entire restaurant, including the bar, is the size of a single-car garage. Which means I can clearly hear the people sitting next to me, despite my being hard of hearing.
     “My family is relatively wealthy in Peru,” says the man who looks young enough to be the son of the woman he’s talking to. When I casually steal a look at her, I see she’s playing with her short silver hair and beaming at him. She’s wearing a gold band on her wedding finger but he’s not. I look at the hardcover book sitting between me and the man. It's titled Sociología something or other. Are they colleagues? Is she a professor and he her student? When the bill arrives they pay separately.
     On the way home, Chris and I walk down MacDougal Street past Café Wha? and the Comedy Cellar. Chris says he’d take hanging out on MacDougal any day over hanging out on Broadway and Times Square. He says Broadway’s full of a bunch of white middle-class tourists. I say MacDougal’s full of pukey NYU students, plus those tourists. Chris insists I’m oversimplifying. I accuse him of the same.
     We debate the not-so-finer points of our argument as we stroll through Washington Square Park in the dark. Under the big white arch, now aglow in blue light, a black man croons “When a man loves a woman.” He’s belting his guts out into a wireless microphone and he sounds good. Another man skates by him, nude except for a loin cloth and a royal blue cape, holding a boom box that blasts a disco song I recognize but can’t quite place.
     Chris grabs my hand as we cross over to Fifth Avenue. His hand is warm and strong and comforting. My phone buzzes inside my purse but I don’t take it out to look at it. I know what it’s going to say. 

Monica Graff 

Monica Graff spent two decades editing scholarly monographs for university presses before she decided to put down her red pen and pick up a black one. These days she spends her time exploring the world with her husband—which she blogs about at—and writing essays about things that make her say "What's that about?" She splits her time between the off-the-grid wilderness of northwest Montana and the very on-the-grid jungle of New York City.


My Place in the Universe: June 21, 2018

I woke up at 8:57 AM today. Another day. Another gift. At 9:30, I had breakfast with my daughter at a greasy spoon called Chick-a-Dee’s. We had a conversation about her job, her promotion to shift manager, and her apprehension of a shoplifter. The ham, eggs, and toast were spectacular.
     After breakfast, I returned home to prepare for a writers’ retreat at a place called “Cirenaica,” or “Siren of the Seas,” near a land-locked Wisconsin town over 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean. I spent the next hour or so going through my collection of half-written short stories in order to find a project to work on in a cabin out in the woods.
     When my pile was gathered, I called a U.S. Army soldier-friend of mine and made plans to meet him later that night before he deploys to Syria. Next, I made another call to another friend of mine who wants me to work with him in the estate planning business. The last call of the day was made to the Minneapolis VA Hospital to refill my prescription for statins.
     By mid-afternoon, I was on the way to the library to print and organize my half-finished short stories and check my e-mails one last time before heading out for Cirenaica.
     When I left the library at 3 PM, I made a quick stop for some beer. The weather was warm and sunny and perfect as I drove the ten miles to the writers’ retreat. By 4 PM, I had arrived, and after brief intros, we ate ribs for dinner and dug right in. The group of 11 set the stage for the days to come before I left for my sunset viewing spot.
     Every year, I watch the sunset from the exact same spot, marking the time and location of the sunset on the horizon. On December 21, I will return to the exact same spot to watch the sunset once again, noting the difference in the time and the 23-1/2 degree change in the sunset’s location. Tonight, at 8:55 PM, the sun will set at its’ northern-most point, just to the left of a water tower. On December 21, the sun will set at approximately 4:30 PM, just to the right of a cell phone tower. These semi-annual observances help to ground me and give me a sense of place within the universe at a specific point and time.
     When the last of the sun’s rays vanished at about 9:30, I went to meet my U.S. Army soldier-friend to say goodbye. We met at a bar called The Joynt where we watched the Milwaukee Brewers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 11-3. 
     Before going to sleep sometime south of midnight, I reflected on the day’s events. I felt gratitude for being able to savor the solstice, which always serves as reminder that the most sacred piece of ground is the square foot beneath my feet.

—Ted Simpson

Ted Simpson is a man who walks the earth, both amazed and stupefied by the mystery of it all.


I wake up around 7:30 when my husband brings my daughter into our bedroom. She’s just turned one and doesn’t like to nuzzle against me anymore unless she’s tired or getting new teeth — this morning is no different, and I find myself missing the heaviness of her body on my chest. My husband puts my daughter down in the play yard next to me and turns on the Praise Baby dvd to keep her occupied until I get up to feed her a bottle. “Happy anniversary,” I say to him. Psychedelic spirals and gummy-toothed babies flash on the television screen behind him in time to the children’s worship music. I kiss his cheek. We married on this day in 2014 at a historic church in West Village (Detroit, not New York) and when I smell clover in the summer, I still think of it.
     After he leaves for work, I lay in bed for a few minutes and quickly scroll through Facebook, Instagram and my email to check my notifications. I roll over and pet our sleeping dog—he’s curled up on my husband’s pillow already, his snout buried deep into the crevice between the mattress and the wall. I sort through junk messages and coupons, weekly newsletters and electronic billing notices, reminding myself to unsubscribe from some of these email lists later. I place my phone back on my nightstand and go into the kitchen and make a bottle. As it’s warming, I prepare myself a cup of coffee in the Keurig (no sugar, a splash of coconut creamer) and then bring them both back to the room with me. I set the coffee aside so I can sit on the edge of the bed and cradle my daughter as I feed her: I brush her hair to the side and kiss her flushed cheeks and remind myself to give her a bath before we leave tonight.
     After a few minutes of indulgence, I place her back down in the play yard and attempt to write while the DVD continues to play. My daughter walks back and forth along the side of the pen, whining piteously for me. “Just one more minute,” I say. I stop writing for a minute to pick up the pacifier that she’s thrown over the side of her play yard, inspecting it for dog hair before putting it back in her mouth. Like most mornings, I feel torn between wanting this time before work to write and wanting to hold her, so I do a little of both. Neither feels like I’m doing enough. I take a sip of coffee, relieved that it isn't cold yet.
     I shut my laptop and pick up my daughter to change her diaper before carrying her into our playroom around 8:30. She's fascinated by anything that makes noise and chooses a pair of cymbals to clang against the table. I go through my work email. My daughter crawls across the carpeting to where I am and paws at the computer keys. I shift her onto my lap away from my computer and read a passage about forgiveness from St. Augustine that I’ve found in my personal email. “We love our enemies, and we pray for them,” he writes. “It is not their death, but their deliverance from error that we seek.” I spend much of my morning thinking of the wisdom laced in those words and wonder: if not death, what else have I wished upon the people I didn’t like?
     My daughter and I move to the laminate kitchen table and the dog follows us, hoping to catch dribbled food from the high chair. I feed my daughter peaches and cream oatmeal while taking bites of my bagel. She screeches for more when I finish, and I’m not sure if she’s hungry or just bored. I start singing "If All of the Raindrops" to her and listen as she hums along in her high chair. She’s just started to do this, and it surprises me every time.
     I begin preparing my out of office package for those who will be covering me tomorrow and Monday at work while I’m on a trip to Kentucky with my family. I pull down files from the cloud, update performance tickets and write brief project descriptions. When my daughter starts to cry, I hand her a book about baby farm animals. My sister arrives with her daughter in the late morning so I can run out to a doctor’s appointment. I kiss the top of my daughter’s blonde head. I make a bottle and put it in the refrigerator before I leave.
     The traffic on the way to the office is light, and I arrive only five minutes late. I sit in the waiting room for much longer than that before they even take me back to the room. While I’m waiting, I try to read a novel by Marilynne Robinson and can’t help but wish that I enjoyed it more than I do. I scroll through Instagram on my phone to pass the time instead.
     I return home around lunchtime and make my sister and I scrambled eggs and kale chips to eat. Then, I continue writing content for a new web release later this summer. My daughter is still sleeping. Between projects, I lay on the floor next to my niece and pump her legs like a bicycle. My sister and I talk about the books that we are reading and what we need to buy for groceries. They leave soon after. My daughter wakes up from her nap and looks at more books in her high chair while I call into a two-hour working session for my job. I multitask while listening on the phone: I try to put my daughter down for another nap; I answer more emails and continue writing material for this summer’s new release; I offer my input during the meeting.
     When my daughter won’t sleep any longer, I put the Praise Baby dvd on again while I continue working, and I feel a twinge of guilt that she’s watched so much television today. After the phone conference, I follow up on more emails to prepare for my time out of the office. I find out we might be changing desks at work. I ask my manager if he can cover a meeting for me while I’m out of the office the next day. He agrees, and I log off my computer for the day around 5:30 in the evening.
     My husband comes home from work then and leaves immediately to take our dog to be boarded for the weekend. This time, he doesn’t kiss me before he walks out the door, and I find myself missing the way his beard scratches my cheek. I snack on blueberry cobbler and drink La Croix. My mom visits for a few minutes and tells me about the phonics teaching course she's taking for her job.
     After she leaves, I grab my yarn and crochet hooks and a few books for the weekend away, and then pack the rest of the things that we always leave for the last minute: pills and vitamins, my contacts, phone and Fitbit charging cords, bottles of water. I put my daughter in the high chair to feed her dinner before we leave for our trip. When she’s done, I change her diaper and put her into my favorite pair of pajamas: a footless zip-up sleeper with pink and green smiling jellyfish on it. My husband places her in the car seat, and we leave for Kentucky by 6:30.
     We listen to a Pod Save America episode from earlier in the week, and I crochet a loose summer vest for myself. The hosts discuss the family separation crisis at the border and when they play audio of the crying children, I start crying myself. We stop in Perryville to eat Chick-Fil-A for dinner. My daughter becomes restless, so I move to the back seat to be with her. I’m annoyed, but remind myself that it’s a long trip for her, that she just wants to be held, that she’s still here with me unlike the children living in detainment camps along the border. I stroke her hair and sing her Elizabeth Mitchell songs. She offers me her pacifier and laughs when I pretend to steal it. She tries to sing along with me, humming and squeaking at the right parts of the Choo Choo song. She giggles when I peek at her from behind her carseat. An hour later we pull into a rest stop about 80 miles from Cincinnati so I can move up front. My daughter falls asleep immediately. Somewhere along I-75 before we cross into Kentucky I fall into a light sleep, too. I can still hear the buzz of voices through the stereo and see flashes of street lamps through my eyelids and hear the crying children in the distance.

Stefanie Norlin

Stefanie Norlin is a Detroit-based writer, book lover and French fry connoisseur. Her essays and poems have appeared in Christianity Today, Under the Gum Tree, and the Wayne Literary Review, among other publications. She’s also received the Tompkins Award in both 2013 and 2016 for her creative nonfiction. You can learn more about her writing at or find her on twitter at @stefanienorlin.



A set of golf clubs in the den at my mother’s house. My mother is starting lessons with friends. She bought the clubs for the lessons. They are teal clubs. The clubs match her golf bag.
     My mother is not a golfer. Neither are her children. I took group lessons for a summer because I wanted to play and lessons were cheaper than greens fees, but there were a dozen other children at the lessons, and we mostly kept to the practice green.
     After my brother moved to Texas, he took us to a pitch-and-putt in Austin. My sister wore her purse on her shoulder as we hacked through nine holes. My father won in the end. I was second.
     Now my mother is widowed, and she is trying new things. She’s in an investment club. She goes to Bible study. She’s taking dance classes. She could have borrowed some clubs but found the clubs at a store, and she bought them. Her friend bought some also.
     My own clubs are in the storage space above the garage. We couldn’t afford a new set of clubs, so I inherited the clubs from my grandfather—a man who also didn’t golf. Old age brought him dementia and an auction mania. He bought bizarre things at auctions—sometimes toys, sometimes saddles, sometimes cheap sets of golf clubs.
     The clubs are old and outdated. They were old when I used them. Boys at my golf lessons used graphite-shaft Pings, but my driver was wooden, and my irons weren’t matched. The shafts were long—much too long for a boy.
     Searching in the attic, I find a synthetic putting green and a bucket of range balls. I set these out with my golf bag. The bag is vinyl and dust-coated. There are tees in the bag’s pockets and balls I found in a creek in the city.
     I show the bag to my mother. She’s hoping to begin lessons soon, but it’s been raining all week, and she’s not sure when she’ll go. She’ll use the tees and the balls, but not the clubs in my bag. Her clubs are nicer than mine—her clubs all matching and teal—but she can afford some nice clubs. Her children are grown—self-sufficient. She can golf if she wants—can pay greens fees.
     It rains when I leave, and I drive home in the rain. I worry about the rainfall. There’s a crack in my concrete patio. I tried to patch the long crack. I hope the patch compound holds and doesn’t fissure and flake. I patched it last summer. Rain made it crumble.

Casey McConahay

Casey McConahay is a graduate of Miami University's MFA program. He lives in northwest Ohio.


Today began as leisurely as any other summer day. Summer used to mean hours of rehearsals, swimming, and whatever other trouble a high school student could get into. But now, two years through college, life is a little different. There are no more rehearsals; friends who used to join me for hours of fun are now all in different places. This year, my summer mornings include reading and playing with my dog, Stitch. This change took some getting used to, but now I do not mind it.
     At 8:22am this morning, I rolled over to see the sun already shinning through my windows. I went downstairs in my pajamas to eat my breakfast of sugary cereal, and turned on the television to see my favorite HGTV stars. Finished with breakfast, I replied to a few emails, checked my class schedule for next semester, and played a few of my favorite games on my phone.
     Stitch and I then went out on our weekly walk to Starbucks. He always knows exactly where we are going. I am convinced that if he ever ran away, Starbucks is where we would find him. As soon as the building comes into sight, Stitch begins to run towards it, drool coming from his mouth. I go inside to get my iced tea and his “puppuccino” (which is just a cup of whipped cream). He starts doing his little wiggle dance and inhales the whipped cream in about two minutes.
     When we return home, I busy myself with some of the household chores: laundry, dishes, and more laundry. Once that is done I go to the backyard where the temperature is a beautiful 85 degrees. I do some reading and wait for my parents to get home. It’s about 5:45 when we begin making dinner. Tonight it is pulled pork sandwiches, one of my favorites. My mom and I are in charge of cooking and my dad does the dishes. For dessert we make brownies. My dad and I argue over who gets to lick the bowl (I win). Then we watch The Incredibles, because we are going to go see the sequel this weekend.
     It is about 11:00 when I head upstairs to get ready for bed. As I lie here, I think about the events of the day. I think about things that make me as excited as a puppuccino makes Stitch. The list I come up with is: waffles, Disneyland, and the beach. I also think about what everyone else in the world is doing right now. I’m sure some people are ending their day just like I am. But other people might just be beginning their evening. Some people are on an exotic vacation; others are at home. As much as I love adventures, I today was my perfect day. 

—Katelyn Wildman

Katelyn is a student at the University of Arizona. 

Check back for more dispatches from June 21, 2018 tomorrow. —Editors

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