Monday, July 9, 2018

July 9: Emilio Carrero • Shamae Budd • Daniel Juckes • ShenLin Fang • John Bodine • Timothy Berg • Jennie B. Ziegler • Dorian Rolston • Kathryn Gougelet • Susan Olding

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 9: Emilio Carrero • Shamae Budd • Daniel Juckes • ShenLin Fang • John Bodine • Timothy Berg • Jennie B. Ziegler • Dorian Rolston • Kathryn Gougelet • Susan Olding


I poured the antifreeze into my car first thing in the morning. It had overheated the night before, a busted radiator. And I was running late to my appointment for a new place to live, my seventh place in two years. To be honest, I don’t remember doing it. I did all of it mindlessly—the whole time thinking about the night before, when a dad in his SUV had pulled up beside me at the stoplight. He rolled down his window and pointed at the smoke coming from the hood of my car, worried. In his back seats, his kids pressed their faces up to the window and stared. If this had been the first time, I would’ve panicked. But I’d done it so many times, back to when I was a kid; I knew what to do. I pulled over onto the side of the road, I flicked on my emergency lights, I turned off the engine, I popped the hood, opened it. And the smoke hit my face.
     I coughed, stepping back. Then I slammed the hood shut. I knew I was gonna be there for awhile so I walked to the back of my car and laid on top of it while rest of the night, the city moved around me. Headlights passed by, side by side, eyes roaming the streets in pairs. Desert creatures scurried around in the dirt, back and forth, chasing and escaping each other. An airplane flew by overhead, thundering through the black sky. Come to think of it, it was forest-like, and laying there, in the center of it all, I was strangely happy, which I felt more as a lack of worry, as if emergency, once you get to know it, can become comfort, which means, it becomes a lot like ritual. Which made me think of my mother: her birthday was in one week exactly. And if I called her, she’d remember all the cars we drove growing up—the Toyota that stalled at stoplights, the Ford that sputtered down the roads, the Nissan that overheated each day. And she’d remember all the places we lived in growing up—cramped, spare bedrooms; police-patrolled apartments; roach-infested houses. But I didn’t call her; remembering rather than reminiscing felt like enough for the night.
     One of my neighbors walked over to me in the parking lot. He was a short, stubble-faced, white guy—I’d never met him before. He asked if everything was okay, and I looked up and saw that I’d spilled the neon green coolant all over the ground.
     He must’ve thought I didn’t live there—with my frazzled hair, sweat-drenched clothes—or if I did, I shouldn’t. I told him that everything was okay, just overheating. He stood there, nodding for a few seconds. He looked at me suspicious. Okay, he said and headed to his car. I watched him walk away, his sandals flopping on the gravel, and I realized he had looked at me the same way I must’ve looked at the homeless man who rifles through our apartment dumpster every couple of days. I had stopped to watch him once, sitting in my car. I’d never stopped to really look at him—his leathery skin or the baseball cap he wore to cover his balding head. How every few minutes, he stopped to pull up his baggy, denim jeans. But the one I did, I noticed that he didn’t look through each bag entirely. He looked through each quickly, sifting through the trash with his hands. He had the look of someone lost or, the more I think about it, someone who had lost something. He reminded me of another homeless man I used to pass by on my way to work in Orlando years ago. My job was downtown and he stood at the same intersection in Little Vietnam every day at 5pm. He didn’t carry any signage. And when he smiled to say, thank you, you saw his missing teeth. Sometimes he’d wander too far into the road when the light was red—walking from car to car, jogging over to the hands holding money out their windows—so that once it turned green, he’d look around lost, confused by where he was. I remember thinking this was funny until the funniness seemed to dissipate in the heat and traffic, and me and all the other cars would give him a little honk and he’d jump a bit, put his hand up to apologize. Rushing back to the sidewalk, he’d lay his hand gently on the hoods of people’s cars as if he needed them to balance himself. All this I thought about during my appointment and on my way to campus.
     The appointment was fine. The place was fine. I gave them my application, hoping they’d accept, and walked to campus. Once I made it to my office, I dug inside my bag for my keys, but I didn’t hear them jingling. I emptied it all out onto the floor, nothing. I slumped over, took a seat on the ground.
I walked out into the courtyard to retrace my steps. Then I heard someone call my name. When I looked up, I saw my friend waving from across the courtyard.
     It was mid-day by then, hot enough to only talk in short sentences. She told me she’d just seen some students doing a bottle rocket experiment. She thought it was adorable. It reminded her of high school. Then she asked me how I was. I told her that I’d lost my keys again. She frowned and said she hoped that I found them. I told her thanks and we said goodbye. A couple minutes later, as I walked down the sidewalk, it hit me that she looked strikingly like my ex-girlfriend. I turned around and looked down the sidewalk, expecting to see—I don’t know—someone. But I didn’t see anyone. So I kept walking—past the planetarium where a group of kids splashed around in tiny, inflatable pools under the trees, but I can’t say much else about them, something about the fact that they were kids made them more like background, more past, despite shouting and laughing, to what was happening now. Instead I kept thinking about my friend and how she was and wasn’t my ex-girlfriend. Both Irish. Both studied psychology. And I’d also met my ex in June four years ago. Though was it June? I couldn’t be sure now. But we had, I remember, gone to the same high school together, a fact we only realized years later, driving past it. Her father, who’d passed away, was a science teacher—he must’ve done bottle rocket experiments before too. I thought about this, sifting, remembering, and would’ve kept doing it if I didn’t run into my car. I stopped. I almost walked passed it. I almost didn’t see my keys lying there on the hood.
     I’d found them, but they didn’t look lost. They looked more as if they’d been laid down gently, confidently forgotten, as if disposition, eventually—standing on the curb, relieved and sweating, amused and annoyed—is enough to be all that matters. Who’s asking when I say, maybe one day holds all of our days?

—Emilio Carrero

Emilio Carrero is a writer from Orlando, FL. He is a MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of Arizona and is the editor in chief for Sonora Review. He is currently working on a memoir.


I wake to the sound of our rust-colored dog whining outside the bedroom door, ready to be let out. I release her from her wire crate; she follows me into the bedroom and leaps out the window as I slide it open. We live in my husband’s sister’s basement, and letting our dog leap through the window is easier than putting on clothes and walking upstairs to use the back door.
     I return to bed. My husband touches my shoulder—a groggy good morning—and rolls over. I reach for my phone and open a game I recently downloaded, selecting an outfit for an unrealistically skinny avatar: silky white blouse, jean jacket, short-shorts, tall brown boots. When I look up the dog is standing at the window, waiting to be let back in. I pull on sweats and a t-shirt, open the window, scratch behind her ears.
     I spend the rest of the morning making Mexican brownies for a couple of neighbor ladies I’m supposed to visit for church. My husband is tinkering with his tools and a little hunk of wood. The basement smells of cinnamon and chili powder and dark chocolate and walnut.
     As I pull the brownies from the oven, my sister-in-law knocks on the basement door and says it’s nearly time to leave. Her little sister—my husband’s little sister—has been staying for several weeks in a treatment facility for women with eating disorders. We’ve been attending informational sessions once or twice a month—we know so little about this addiction. Sometimes she wants to get better, she tells us. Other times, not so much.
     I dig one of the brownies from the pan in lieu of breakfast and rush out the door to attend today’s nutrition class. The irony doesn’t strike me till later.
     We check in at the front desk, sign a form agreeing not to smuggle contraband items, such as shoelaces and cell phones, into the facility. We wear name tags that say “family.” We laugh nervously when we pass the table with refreshments—raspberry danishes and brownies and apples and water—because we aren't sure whether these are for us, or for the patients. We don't eat anything, just in case. During the class, they give us tiny straws and ask us to breathe through them. “It feels like you can’t get enough air,” she says, “but actually, you can. Restricting anything just increases our desire for it.”
     Back home, I plate the brownies. As I cover the plates in Saran Wrap, I consider briefly the possibility that one of these women might have an eating disorder, in which case she will likely not appreciate the brownies. The Saran Wrap isn’t clinging properly—it flaps loosely at the edges of the paper plates.
     The first woman doesn’t answer—I leave one of the plates on her doorstep. The second woman, spritely and black-haired and wearing a bathing suit and a black knit jumper, ushers me through her living room and into her backyard, where I discover I have interrupted a summer pool-party. The women in deck chairs ask polite questions about my schooling and yell intermittently at their children—”Jackson, do NOT push your brother into the pool!”—and my eyes begin to twitch from squinting into the sun. The brownies remain on the marble countertop, untouched.
     In the evening, my husband and I go to the grocery store for eggs and milk and my favorite coffee substitute, and make small talk with the cashier. At home, we slice cucumbers and leave them to soak in pickling brine. My husband submits job applications and I proofread his latest networking emails. We clean the bathroom. We watch television.
     We walk the dog—stopping to admire a velvet soft black rabbit and a small black cow, who watches us back intently. The dog tries to catch tiny grasshoppers in the grass, and the clouds above the mountains to the west are peach and pastel yellow and robin-egg blue.
     When I undress for bed in front of the full-length mirror in our bathroom, I frown—my stomach seems so much softer and looser than it did a year ago. I say I feel fat. (I know I am not.) My husband says I am beautiful, and looks cross. He says we ought to get rid of the mirror. I bite my lip, staring a little longer, and then turn the mirror to face the wall. It’s very strange to look in the direction of the mirror and see nothing—to be inside my body, instead of looking at it. To see only blank cardboard backing and wood and wire.
     In bed, I resist the urge to play the new game on my phone and read Gone with the Wind instead. I kiss my husband goodnight, and turn out the light.

—Shamae Budd

Shamae received her MFA from BYU this spring. Her essays have appeared in Hippocampus Magazine, Bird’s Thumb, and Prairie Margins. She lives with her husband, their pet hedgehog, and a very rambunctious poodle. 


I remember the pinprick of sound which woke me on the morning of June 21, 2018—the first chords of ‘What I Thought of You’ by Holly Throsby, a song which never ages more than a few bars before I cut it off (a song which I have, perhaps, forgotten the ending of). The keyboard clunks that Throsby plays each morning are followed swiftly by a brief sense of everything. And then I notice that the shower is on—I did not hear Melissa wake. The room is cold. It is an ordinary coldness, in no way biting, and in keeping with the kind of coldness I am used to.
     Before ‘What I Thought of You’ can play again I take my phone from where it sits beside my head and do what is by now normal, even though the World Cup is just a few days old and I am sure that I am done with Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (I am not). Three 1-0 wins and a few minutes resisting the urge to make a micro-purchase (the one reason I tell myself I have kept up this game is to resist that urge. But there is a grim kind of glee in that resistance: the game works by making you wait, but each event of waiting can be lessened if a button is clicked and gems are secured for a fee). This is the early extent of consciousness. Then I spend an hour in bed. I check the following: gmail, messenger, whatsapp, snapchat, goodreads. I have managed to go without facebook and youtube for weeks but that—they—still gnaw a little, and so perhaps kinds of resistance are built more into this day than I realise.
     Of course, this is all some kind of resistance. 
     I read the news (the football, and the books page anyway) and do not turn on the light. I am in the shower at 7, and hear the car in the garage start after the door rolls and squeaks its way around and up as I turn on the tap. Those events are not connected.
     I drive to the train station, park, top up my SmartRider and catch the train. I read the poems of a woman in the news for the books her daughters had written about all the things that happened to them. I sit next to a boy playing a game on his phone which includes the use of a loud and stuttering pixeled machine gun. I get off the train, catch the bus, realise I have waited long enough to accrue more energy in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, and do enough to complete Chapter 1 of my fourth year at Hogwarts. My brother, Jacob, is still lost and I have not worked out yet how to locate each of the secret vaults; it might take time (or money). I begin the next chapter. The sling through which I hook my hand while standing on the bus creaks in the kind of way I was hoping things might creak on the day I’d planned to record the way things creaked or crunched or moved.
     When I get to campus I walk to my desk on the path I have been able to ascertain takes a minimum three minutes less than the one most people take—they stay on the bus longer. Breath is visible until I make it to my office. I open my computer, cheat the crossword, and answer emails; I write a storyboard for a project I am more than a little unsuited to, and I practice a lecture aimed at teenagers designed to convince them to consider how they might incorporate a deeper sense of purpose in their writing. I learn Bombarda, an exploding charm, over three hours: the game needs you to return to it, and tap on the screen until accreted time (energy) is spent. I panic about the lecture, and procrastinate because of that, flicking through the Guardian’s football page and the AFL app. I go to the toilet, eat lunch, and fall asleep.
     On the bus home I try to listen to the Guardian’s football podcast but as we set off the driver shouts down the length of the bus—I hear him through my headphones—that he is not so sure about the Eagles’ chances. He shouts it again, and so I agree with him—Darling and Kennedy are big losses—and then he and I and a man with a beard who sits behind me talk about footballs and the NBN and Exmouth and whale sharks and fishing in the Abrolhos Islands, where the Batavia sunk in 1629 and where Jeronimus Cornelisz conducted a bloody mutiny. The driver almost misses a stop.
     At home I sleep for a while on the couch in the bottom room, where the sun comes through in the winter time, and when I wake up my fingers are stiff and my back aches and the crows are out and calling. I remember they were there in the morning but that I didn’t note it down. I practice my lecture again but do not get further than the first two slides. Mum calls then, while I am listening to Max Richter, and she asks what the music is which she can hear through the phone, and I say ‘Mrs Dalloway: In the Garden’. Then I fiddle with my lecture slides, add animations, and go to the physio. He asks about the book I am carrying—Let Us Now Praise Famous Men—and he does not think he needs to work on me that evening. I am relieved.
     On the way home, as I leave the surgery, I check the spot in which I parked my car for coolant leaking from the thermostat. There is a small, green circle—I need to refill the reservoir. Then I drive to Chicken Treat and buy chips which I eat in the car on the driveway before I go inside my house—we are having a hot kind of salad for dinner and I am not convinced by that. Mel goes to Speed Fit. I gain enough stars to unlock the lesson which allows me to learn Ferula, a healing charm, as long as I wait two hours 59 minutes, and I watch the Eagles go goalless to quarter time on the television, and the World Cup—Australia play Denmark—plays on my phone at the same time. Melissa comes home, we sit together, the Eagles lose, Australia draw, and I learn Ferula before I set my alarm and turn off the light.

Daniel Juckes

Daniel Juckes recently completed a PhD at Curtin University, in Western Australia. He is currently working through Chapter 6 of Year 4 in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery.


I opened my eyes, then I closed them try to sleep another hour. Then I suddenly jumped up and grabbed my phone saw what time it was, I realized it already 9:20. I was lying on my bed around five minutes, thinking about continue sleep or get up. Finally, I choose a middle solution, I sat on my bed and sliding my phone. I didn’t find anything interesting in news, then I literally get up. The first thing after I got up is opened my laptop and check if the WIFI still work, without any surprise, WIFI still dead. I couldn’t just abandon, so what I did is disconnect, connect, “No Internet, Secured.” Then I tried again. It just not work, thus I went to my roommate’s room, it’s the place I placed router. I checked router, looks nothing wrong. Just like what I did in last two days, I plugged out then plugged in. I came back to my room, sat in front of my laptop, I stared at that “connecting”, after thirty seconds, “No internet, Secured”. Three words under my WIFI’s name declare I need go to library to do my homework. I decided eat my breakfast first, that’s also important.
     I opened refrigerator, took out the milk, then I smelled milk carefully, I already stored it for four days, I don’t want drink anything expired. When I saw breads, I remembered I threw them on the desk for few days. So I not even check breads still good or not, I ignored them. I will throw them this evening, that’s what I was thinking, same as yesterday. I still have some protein energy bar, well, they are my breakfast. I brought milk and bar back to my room, I like watch something when I eating breakfast. I hesitated between books and laptop, then I choose laptop. There are actually no difference with book and laptop, one is on the desk, another probably are somewhere near my bed; the point is they both are using on academic way. The book should be harder, “Success from Scratch”, doesn’t sounds fit to read when I still not very conscious. At the same moment I opened chrome, I noticed I didn’t even have a working WIFI. But nothing can trouble a person don’t want be sharp at the beginning of a day, I took out my phone and continue watched the anime I didn’t finished last night.
 When I was watching my phone, my phone noticed me I got a message from google email. I thought that’s probably something on Facebook. I clicked that message it is from Facebook, and I also found something. I read the email from my ENGL class instructor. I didn’t read that before because I felt there are too many words. I was glad I read that at morning, or I will definitely forgot I have a 1500 words essay need to write. I almost want start wrote, I even opened the Word document. How could I write what happened in today in the morning?
     Breakfast was finished in ten minutes, I really don’t want eat any energy bar anymore, tastes bad. What could I do without laptop? I looking for my book for a while, I can barely remember where I put it last night. Finally I found it near the bad, when I picked up my book, I lost my pencil, I always use pencil as bookmark. The lucky thing is I did underline and note when I read a book, so I know where I read last night. I kept reading the book, but it’s not novel or interesting one, so I felt boring. I knew this is a self-improve book, so I forced myself continue read. When I read this book, I remembered the time I studying math, I don’t like ant part of it but it really helps me in my career. The book is really good, it teach readers understand the self-value and make an improve plan, I learned a lot from this book, although there are no funny stories in it, I still will finish the book. I am not a focus person, I can only reading like thirty minutes. So with half an hour, I finished exactly a chapter. When I put the book back to shelf, I saw all the books I read since I came to America, I felt satisfied. I almost finished the book, so I was searching some books in Amazon, I really interested a book about the Blockchain, an important concept and technology in nowadays. Fifty eight dollars, I considered about the value, then I noticed a lazy person like me should finished the books I had right now. If I start reading two books at different time, the first one can hardly finished, because sometimes just forget or hard to focus on both at the same time. What I did is marked the book. Probably next time I buy this book is few months later.
     Around 12:00 am, I found two pieces of chicken breast in the refrigerator. I probably bought them two days ago, so I can still eat. I looked for cooked some fired chicken, but I thought it may cost me more than an hour to prepare. So I just simply cooked them with soy source, and they were taste good. I also did baked potato, however the oven seems has some issue, so the potato still half raw after forty minutes baking. I was so hungry, I put potato in the microwave oven solved that potato, I don’t have any mood waste on that potato. Six minutes later, the potato still not like what I expected, but whatever it’s cooked. I felt like a pretty enjoyed that meal, although I always not enjoy wish the dishes. Because I used soy source, I smelt like soy source, hair, clothes and I don’t know everything smelt like soy source. I saw vent fan, I knew I forgot something, every time I just can’t remember turn on the vent fan. Never mind, one of the reason I don’t like wash dish is I don’t like oil, but I cooked chicken breast, there is enough oil to make me feel uncomfortable. I do like fried food, and I have a bit of neat freak, so whatever chopsticks or disposable gloves, I try all the ways keep my hands from oil.
     My WIFI dead, and I must go to library to do my homework, I planned go to library around two o’clock. Before that, I need read books. The book about stock for beginner, it can help anyone get sleep. I took out my note book, and with a deep breath I started reading. I prefer use pencil, it’s easy to remove the handwriting, another thing is l also like sharpening pencil. No reason, just like do it. I bought a auto-pencil sharpener, I really like that one. When I wrote down few sentences I use pencil sharpener once. I pretty enjoy the noise from my pencil sharpener, I think I like things be sharped. And the book, there are many picture on the book, so when I wrote note, I have to draw the pictures again. It’s annoying, but it worth.
     In the library, not many people. I sat down before one of the computer, I waved the mouse, nothing on the screen. Then I did the same thing to the next one, still no responds. These computers closed? Or not allowed use in today? When I was thinking those questions, the third one worked. Without any hesitate, I read the require of that 1500 words essay. It looks not need prepare too much, I still felt a little hard to write a long essay just record what happened in today. I wrote around eight hundred words then I stopped. I can’t think one more word, and I left the library. I felt hungry at four, too early to the dinner. I went to the market of university, looked around, finally bought a cup of coffee and some snacks. Time to go home, I can come to library later finish my essay.
     I kept thinking about my essay, after I got home, I checked my internet if work at the same time. Obviously, it didn’t. I can’t just suffer anymore, so I use my phone googled how to solve the problem. I still could using data to search on the internet, but with limited plan, each 1 MB is an expensive cost. I saw many familiar pages, those all I had tried. This time I opened a short video, it offers a way I never heard before. I repeated everything on the video, tried another time, I didn’t even have any hope. But this time it worked. I was so excited, I jumped around in my room. When I calm down, I started doing some TOFEL practices, I need a good score to apply business school. Usually absolutely will play games, before the few days of test, I don’t have any mood play games. The result still not good enough, I became anxiety, so I turn off the laptop and laid on the bed. I closed my eyes, and jumped up, still have work need to do.
     The first time I went to Walmart at eight pm, I never thought there still many people. I planned buy some food, I am in short of food. I was picking meat for a long time, consider of my budget, I chose pork. Pork are the most cheapest thing I can find in the Walmart. I walked around in the Walmart, I rare walking around in the store, today I just want relax. I think I like stay with people when I tired, I like listening others talking and laughing, their happiness can easily effecting me. In the an hour walking, I didn’t find anything I really need, although I pretty want the juicer, but I don’t want waste money. After the shopping, I ordered some food and sat in a restaurant. Just during sitting there, I saw many families, couples and good friends sat around me, suddenly I felt upset and left as soon as possible. It’s hard to explain, but when I keep working with stress and without any friends or family members around me, I sometimes suddenly felt overwhelmed.
     When I came back to home it’s already ten o’clock. And I can’t forget I still have another seven hundred words need to go. I opened my laptop and continue do the work, the sooner I finished the sooner I can sleep. This is probably what happened before I sleep, and I don’t like anything happen when I sleep.

—ShenLin Fang


I’m keeping my head above icy water this morning, literally. Hundreds of feet above the water, to be more precise, floating in a bed on a cruise ship in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. This is not my typical day. No classes to teach, no emails to check, no errands to run. I’ll not prepare any meals for myself or my kids. No dishes to do. It’s a day of sitting and looking. Looking at icy water and glaciers. They appear at irregular intervals off the deck of my cabin. Later, I go up on the top deck to watch one. Everyone is hoping the glacier will calve, the moment when a large chunk of ice breaks off and falls into the water. We want the spectacle. When it does people cheer. I don’t know whether to be delighted or saddened. Yes, it’s part of the natural process of glaciers: new ice higher up the mountain pushes the old ice into the sea. But we’ve been reminded this morning that the glaciers used to be much farther down the bay than they are now. So cheering the glacier’s calving feels like we’re cheering for global warming. Even right in front of us it feels remote, though. A visual spectacle “over there”, not happening “here,” framed by my cabin balcony. Drawn by the spectacle I try to ignore what’s made my seeing it possible.
     Before getting on this boat I spent two days in Vancouver, Canada. I felt a sense of relief being out of the United States where I live. When asked where I was from I was honest, but then felt the need to apologize, saying, “No, I didn’t vote for him,” repeatedly. In addition to Vancouver’s charms, what I most relished was the distance, short as it was, between me and the United States. I relished being in a country that isn’t a bully, in a country with sane, reasonable leadership, in a country where school shootings aren’t commonplace and the 2nd Amendment doesn’t exist. The problems I’d left behind in the U.S. were “over there”, not “here.” Somehow, crossing that border made my feelings of helplessness in the face of so much awfulness in the U.S. somewhat more bearable. I know the distance is an illusion but it’s one I need desperately right now.
     Today though, in Glacier Bay, I’m back in the United States, floating over icy waters watching a slow catastrophe. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. It doesn’t feel like a catastrophe. The spectacle is carefully protected from most thoughts of what makes it possible. My in-laws like to take cruises and bring us along. It’s not something I’d choose to do but it’s hard to say no to the invitation. So I’ve not paid to be here. As much as I enjoy the beauty of the water and mountains and glaciers, that enjoyment is made possible by work and processes that are carefully hidden from me. The hundreds of laborers from poorer parts of the world fixing my food, cleaning my cabin, they’re not enjoying this beautiful place with their families. We’re friendly and acknowledge each other, but no one is unaware of the distance between us. The smoke from the ship’s engines polluting the air, helping to make the glaciers calve for my visual enjoyment, is not something I’m supposed to worry about today. But I feel my privilege every moment, and it’s an uneasy one, as it should be. I don’t think that’s a widely-held sentiment on this boat. The passengers have worked hard and saved their money for this vacation, so why shouldn’t they enjoy it? My cruise ship life today makes explicit the kind of privilege I have every day, the costs of which are largely hidden from me. And hiding the costs has long been a major benefit of privilege.
     So today has been a day of floating on sublime beauty tempered with thoughts of what makes my being here to see it possible. So today I float, helpless as usual, reflecting on the costs of beauty, of privilege, and on the proximity between beauty and disaster.

—Timothy Berg

Timothy Berg is a teacher and artist. He lives in Muncie, Indiana where he teaches humanities in the Honors College at Ball State University.


1/ One o’clock in the morning. 

I’m awake, awake, awake, and porchlight glows are seeking the cracks in the blinds of our bedroom. I lift my hair onto the pillow—I can’t bare it to touch me when I try to sleep and it settles into place, a thick tongue above my head. I’ve given up on the “if I fall asleep by x then I’ll get y amount of hours” game. My body tries to cool itself on top of sheets and blankets—in the dead of summer my husband is always cold—there he is, in the dark, to the left. Sometimes he’ll wake and reel back if I’m looking at him. I try to picture what he sees: the imagined mirror—the whites of my eyes dim echoes of used daylight.
     A reverse Sleeping Beauty situation: insomnia caused by jetlag, by outpacing time.
     My heart is drumming and starting like a bad engine, stuttering and murmuring to me. My doctor said to switch positions and so I do, rolling over and over like a snake in the grass. A Midgard serpent swallowing her tail and story.
     Perrault wrote that Sleeping Beauty gives birth to Aurore and Jour. Dawn and Day.
     And it is Nótt who sweeps in the night by chariot, this woman of dreams, and her son, personified day, behind her, solemn as sun.

2/ Two hands grasping for the phone, the light, the sheets. 

Sleep must have caught me, swept me by, a pestle grounding my thoughts quiet.
     I decline dressing in the small dawn for the gym, decline to pull spandex and cotton over foot, calf, thigh. Uniform to disguise sweat and skin. I decline running to my car with a hanger or box cutter or screwdriver, ears trained for sound—any at all.
     I leave trails of footprints filled with fear.
     As any woman does when recognizing forest.

3/ Three.

My husband, awake now, stands to hug me. I lean in to this ritual, noting with relief that he will be the only one who will touch me today. People’s hands find my skin and hair and face and shoulder. Their arms fold around my body in hugs long and short, bones constricting lungs, wrinkling blazers and hairdos. My skin constantly aches.
     Today, my feet on twenty-year-old beige carpet. Into the living room. Into the office. Into the bedroom. The news is shivering and blinking and scrolling on a screen made for fingertips. I touch it like it’s dust.
     Three Norns: of before, of now, of becoming
     Three Tells: the virgin, the mother, the crone
     We watch Diana fill the moon’s lamp oil each month. That soft light erases wrinkles while scooping the shadows back into our eyes.
     Angrboda, mother of wolf and serpent and Hel: a mother of monster and death. Of mountain and sea and below.
     Hel: a daughter with a pearl for an eye and exposed teeth.
     Teeth cannot smile.
     These women gather me, my bones, the chords of voice.
     They slide into my ears, wrap me in apple skin.

4/ Thor’s day, here, a Thursday in summer.  

I slip in earrings of silver hammers, upturned crosses with stubbed handles. A month ago, the Eyrarland Statue, small and brass-bright, sat before me in Reykjavik. I bought a copy of it at the airport a week later and unwrapped it, three weeks later, and leave it on our kitchen counter. A statue or game piece, the English translation read. Christ or Thor.
     I think of him, this red-bearded shaker of mountains, and of his laughter, heavy as rain, and touch the silvered thread darted through my ears.

5/ Tomorrow, Friday, Frigg’s day, the fifth day. 

Iceland slid in like shadow, like snow into boots.
     I feel it, still, a layer of ash, shifting under my nails, eyelids, teeth.
     Did you know: Frigg, the queen of the gods, was a mother. She carried falcon feathers with her to cover skin and take flight.
     I stare at my stomach in the shower, flat with the results of trying to carve, sculpt, and chisel muscle back into them.
     They press their elbows to my ribs, these aunties and cousins and in-laws, lighthouse eyes sweeping over my stomach, and point to my ankle, the one that goes crick crack crick crack up stairs. Bones tell of age. This is why my mother fed me so much milk, perhaps—not to stand tall, but to hold the Mothers at bay. To slow the ticking they would hear, that phantom, waiting below lung and liver and stomach and down down down.
     Let my stomach fill with milk instead of my breasts.

6/ June, the sixth month, named for Hera, lady of Rome. Watcher of women. 

Peacock plumage. Golden apples and fertile pomegranates, dark ruby seeds burst like blood vessels.
     She cursed Antigone by replacing her hair with serpents.
     And Sif, Thor’s wife, once woke to an empty scalp, deforested in the night by Loki, the grinning god.
     Thin bristles of brush drag over my skin. My hairdresser calls these strands virgin. Blonde is a state. Sexual and stupid, according to the justjoking. Laughing teeth. Rich or bored. Bottled up like magic. But my hair is brass. Not yellow or white or gold or liquid honey. It’s dull-lit and dark. Someone got this script wrong, I usually think, whenever I have a gown tight around my neck, watching my hair drip onto the floor like straw.
     This is not what I think this morning, though. You see—my hair is falling out. Perhaps from heat or stress or spell. I grab it into my hands and release it into the trash alongside the used Q-tips and tissues.

21/ Days since I’ve been home. 

The 21st day of June, a solstice summer, and we turn under the sun, a slow roast, with clouds of Swiss dots.
     I repeat the day count to myself—a reverse counting down. A reminder of daily life. A grief release. Once I forget to do this, I won’t wake up bleary and unfocused, hand searching for a stranger’s lamp. I’ll remember where I am—panic or confusion no longer scattering like pollen into my lungs. Iceland will be a well-kept secret hiding under my tongue. To speak of it is to share it is to give it away.
     And I am too greedy for that.
     Each morning I collect my bones and stand, washed with bright. The intrusiveness of day, curdled and high, a reminder of time getting away from me. Each morning thin glass separates our condo from the Floridian-crumpled heat. And each morning I slip on a promise hooped of gold, banded there, on the fourth finger. A single Draupnir. 
     Esjan. Hekla. Eyafjallajökull. Pack them tight into the spaces between my ribs.
     So, here, an account: Wake at seven, have two half-cups coffee, no milk, just black, and take eight steps to the bathroom. Shower for 12 minutes, shampoo twice, pick up razor eight times. Spend three hours at computer doing god knows what, take break at 11 to ask husband for lunch. Two hours slip by without notice or importance. Get up, knees cracking, and take seven steps to laundry, tripping once over leg of coffee table. Three loads will cycle through today: six hours of drying time since the dryer is old and rusted and not ours. Eat off two distinct plates from wedding: dark blue and porcelain white. Spend additional four hours babysitting computer, staring at course developments, essays, YouTube. Count the hours (five) until I should start feeling like I should start thinking about going to bed. Eat tacos and then spend three hours watching TV because its 2018 and there’s Netflix and we’re in Florida and it’s too hotmuggyhumiddangerous to go outside while there is a light next to the front door because have you seen the bugs and the armored rats and my husband is already asleep how nice it must be to do that anywhere what would that take to slip your conscious away like a drink gone warm.
     I forget, at various moments, what day of the week it is. Laughter—real, belly-deep laughter—heaves in and out of my body like a cracking glacier. I ask my husband if he ever regrets having a Quaker wedding since we aren’t Quakers. My mother calls, at 6:30 on the dot, on her way home from work like she does most days on her hour-and-a-half commute across state lines. She used to do this with her own mother, before she passed, and now we create content for conversation in an otherwise very still relationship. I calculate the time difference between the East Coast and Florida and close my eyes, realizing they’re the same. I wonder if cholesterol has any link to sorrow: I convince myself I can physically feel both. A small flutter of anxiety at 11:43 p.m. makes me stand in front of my bathroom mirror, whispering you’reokayyou’reokayyou’reokay softly enough so that my husband, in bed on the other side of the thin door, either doesn’t hear or politely lets me cast this alone. Shivering elbows flush close to my body and I run fingertips over the hives erupting across my wrists. No feathers or sealskin there. Ice skin and purple veins. I don’t step outside. I step over thresholds—never on. I close the blinds. I stretch my feet and wiggle the left one, hoping to gain muscle there. I feel my heart slur and jump and knot its beats wrongly: a swallowed song, a murmur, or something else. Another day declining to call anyone about anything.
     Years have passed this way.
     My lungs, twin buried ships with their breath of ghosts.
     Volcanic stones weigh my pockets as I sink into sheets.

—Jennie B. Ziegler

Jennie B. Ziegler teaches and writes in the Southeast, and is an Associate Editor of Dying Dahlia Review. Find her at or @InTheFourteenth.


Forever: A Day

Roofers vs. Roaches

On June 21, 2018, a Thursday, I awake around 4 AM with a start. Actually, Ginger does, as she sleeps in the same room as me, and whatever must’ve startled her to wrench her neck around, causing her collar tags to chime like an alarm, by extension startles me too—cockroach, is my first thought upon waking.
     I hate cockroaches, though not for any implication of their presence (a question of cleanliness), nor for any fear of what they might do upon a closer encounter (bite, burrow, inject some nerve agent—I don’t know, I’ve only seen the relevant sci-fi during my most formative years and can no longer shake those nightmarish impressions). No, with me it’s far more visceral, a yucky, goosebumpy feeling that ripples through me at the merest sight of one: roach.
     But there’s none to be found.
     Which, to be sure, can be even worse. If a roach seen makes me sick, a roach unseen throws me into full-fledged panic, and so it was that in the pre-dawn bedroom light I begin frantically searching the covers and my back and neck and beneath the bed and Ginger’s and up the wall and behind the curtains and the side tables...until moving on to the next room, and finally, the only way I know how to get back to sleep in such a state, finding the deep exhaustion I’d—really—been looking for.
     (By the way, it wasn’t wholly irrational for me to work up such a fit. I’d spotted one, a big brown juicy sucker, just days earlier, pulsing near the ceiling, and luckily had had the presence of mind to retrieve my usual implements: Windex and tennis racquet. And then again, maybe only the night before, what sounded like a tennis ball thunked against the window had turned out to be...well, so there ya go.)
     And so, roachless, curled back into sleep, man and his dog spring awake again only moments later, when the roofers arrive to start their day at five.
     I don’t hate roofers. I hate the guilt they make me feel, for cursing them—I’m trying to sleep, I whine to myself, only to remember that their disruption is the start of the workday, a day of work under the blazing sun (and closer to it, unshaded from it) that after all aims to improve my very living conditions, in which I get my precious 6-8. And perhaps for that derivative hatred, I’d peg them one worse on the Roofers vs. Roaches score. But in the end my visceral reaction to them is quite different than to the Kafkaesque insectoid: I don’t feel nauseous, rippled-through, my body threatening to morph...
     Or at least it is on this day I’m choosing to remember, attention having that funny effect of casting all in a kind of shimmer, where it’s perhaps the worst, most grating irritations, those sharpest edges of the day, giving off—as diamonds do?—the most light...but I’m getting ahead of myself.
     So: 6:00 AM, I snooze my alarm.
     7:00 AM, I finally get up, and check my email in bed to make sure I haven’t just slept through a morning meeting.
     Ah, morning meetings. I moonlight as an ad man for a company on the east coast, making the oddjob moniker (given the time difference) oddly appropriate—which, again, I kind of hate. When they schedule our Zoom call for their 10:30, figuring they’ll be long on their second cup of coffee by then and humming away into the day, I quietly resent them, knowing full well that I’m not the kind of person—as perhaps they suspect me to be, as perhaps some of them indeed are—to take full advantage of laggy online videoconferencing, namely by appearing still bleary-eyed and slovenly, maybe sans pants.
     But, no meeting, and it’s around this time (7:06 AM to be precise) that I decide to start taking notes on the day. Remembering something about the “cockroach,” I have here scrawled. Some moment in the middle of the night I promised myself not to forget.

The Deep

I’m not the kind of person who keeps a diary, a bit self-involved (ha—go figure, given this entire essay about me and my day), though I do take particular pleasure in a well-honed daily routine and in general love a day’s dailiness. For instance, I meditate every morning, and on the day in question I note as much (at 7:22 AM): sat down for meditation. Perhaps, looking back, this is a little self-negating.
     But, if my attention isn’t swallowing itself in trying not to think about thinking (and taking note as I do), I like to think I can be pretty attentive to what’s around me. At least, the moments I am attentive stand out in my mind as special, even transfiguring: those aforementioned roofers, banging away at my skull, so bad I can longer tell whether I trekked the dust into the closet or it rained all morning from the ceiling, suddenly become, post-Zen, like astronauts. Indeed, so confident am I of the moment’s indelible burn that I take no notes beyond that, and can recount it to you now entirely from memory:
     I’m sitting, cross-legged, on my stack of pincushions (I really need to buy a proper zabuton, but every time I remind myself I also think how Zen it is to seek enlightenment in this jankiest way, and how we’re all—at least in this tradition—enlightened anyway). Eyes lowered, facing my French doors. The morning light is pale, falling softly on the patio, and a light breeze stirs the wind chimes. The tree’s shadows ripple over the adobe, like deep, wind-swept grooves in sand. Not just atmosphere, but one in particular befitting the desert solitary on spiritual pilgrimage—at least until one and then another mysterious white figure, swathed head-to-toe in white, with wet white face scarf, white wide-brimmed hat, crosses the window. And in that moment, jarring to be sure, whatever annoyance I’m feeling morphs into something like: awe. How can this be, I think to my formerly irritable self, that I’m on this spaceship and out my porthole my fellow astronauts float about, readying me for warp speed into the deep!
     And then I remember I’m just sitting there in my underwear, and they can of course see me too.
     And then I decided to put on a fresh camp shirt, I note, not without a hint of pride.

The Kid/Dog Question

Out the door by 7:51, with Ginger tight on the leash to avoid all the construction hazards around us in the yard, we do one of those you-go-I-go dances with a construction guy wielding a huge metal panel and then find our way to the street. I feel really bad about getting in that guy’s way, as the division of labor between us is pretty stark: while I groan about having to walk the dog, and it’s so hot already, he’s lugging sheet metal that’s too hot to touch without gloves and glints like a flashbulb in his face, probably temporarily blinding him to how inconsiderate and spoiled I really am.
     “Sorry!” he yells out, as we stomp past.
     I’m usually pretty bleary-eyed and unconscious on this morning walk with Ginger, no coffee in me yet, while she’s ravenous for the world. At every street corner she seems to catch a scent that just drives her wild, as if it’s not the same damn dogs peeing on the same damn streetlamp every damn day. Every once in a while she’s able to arrest me with that proverbial stop-and-smell-the-roses feeling, nose-deep in some scraggly cactus bush, and I’m given to thoughts about the miracle of this hidden language she’s reading and...then it gets kind of annoying.
     Is that terrible—to be annoyed by the innocent curiosity of your pup? Is it not rather that I’m annoyed with myself, for somehow forgetting this kind of curiosity, neglecting my one superpower to make life interesting, endlessly? Are these very questions themselves annoying?
     On the walk we encounter a couple kids, both boys about seven or eight. They give us a look like they really wanna meet Ginger, their faces flushed with amazement, and so up we go to their little perch on a stonewall at the end of their yard, where they sit, kicking their legs. “Can I pet your dog?” one asks. “Sure,” I answer, thinking that I ought to reinforce the good job asking the question in the first place (kids who just reach for Gins scare the bejeebers out of me, never really knowing what a startled dog’s capable of, and perhaps still somewhat traumatized from getting myself bitten, putting my hand where it didn’t belong). So one gives her some cutely deliberate pats on the back, while the other watches somewhat guardedly, before piping up by way of participation to ask her name. I tell them.
     “She’s like gingerbread!” Aw, kids.
     It’s probably worth pausing—my roses—to offer some commentary on the kid/dog question: Are they one and the same? I mean, I’d never before compared Ginger to gingerbread, and indeed her coat’s just like that, cinnamony and sweet, and so in the same way the dog suddenly sharpens my focus on something I’d longsince let recede to the background, the kids do too—cause me a fresh look. Alright, alright: cue the Foreigner (And it feels like the first time...).
     But then it’s also the case that kids are nothing like dogs, and anyone who tells you their canine is training wheels for the saggy-diaper biped is just nuts. I know for a fact, now, finally able to admit this to myself at all of thirty-one, that I’m nowhere near ready for kids, and there’s nothing I relish more than after a long day at work (especially at the summer camp, where it’s kids galore, feeling like I’m subliminally raising them as on the surface all I’m saying pertains to beginner-to-intermediate tennis technique, “Follow through,” “Prepare earlier,” “Chin up,” etc.) coming home and—sitting down, tugging my socks off, sighing in silence. In these moments of nearly orgasmic relief, Ginger will often come up to greet me, wagging her tail and offering my wrinkly white feet a sniff.
     A kid would just need something.
     Or, to put it another way: a kid would always need something. Unlike a dog, needing no schooling (relatively) and able to be left alone for hours on end, tended to only at select and regularly scheduled intervals for pooping and doggy park play, whatever can be stomached in the way of dog owner guilt basically dictating the level of care, from a kid’s need there is—there seems—no escape. I don’t know what I’d do without the place to myself at the end of the day. Maybe this makes me an ineligible bachelor.
     Definitely a writer: the sadness of this profession is that a writer can do on the page exactly what, and to the extent that, they cannot in life. It’s what we’re missing that we write! (Or, even worse, sometimes what we don’t know we’re missing that we unconsciously write.) In any case, the words are born of lived deficiency; c’est la vie.

Summer Anthem

Then I’m in the car (air unconditioned, windows unrolled) on the way to work, ready with my tennis racquet to greet them—indeed, the kids, now it occurs to me, much as I do the roaches. I’m not sure what this means; perhaps it says something about being repelled by them, try as I might feeding ball after ball to somehow swat them off; perhaps it’s really that part of myself, that part that’s not ready for them, not a father, I’m trying to bat away; perhaps it’s none of these, and the monotony of a million fuzzy yellows, plunked—like old pennies into a wishing well—against my strings, just induces a kind of hypnosis, transporting me elsewhere...In any case!
     It’s about—no, exactly 8:49 at this point, 89 degrees climbing to 106. And I’m just jamming out to this tune, thick with synth keys and Auto-Tuned easy vocals (Never been one like you, I keep on fallin, etc.), snappy electric drums to keep me boppin along...when it occurs to me, This is my summer anthem! Ever get that feeling, where you just know something’s got you hooked, so cheesy-catchy but also so right? Well, that was me with a band called Liquid Summer on my way to work that morning.
     The song’s called—indeed—“One Like You,” and it took me about half an hour of searching to find online (a paltry 472 views on YouTube). When I found it, later that same day, I played it on loop, literally plugged the URL into a YouTube looper, while I showered and then shaved and then, as if possessed, danced around my living room, so happy was I to have found one like you—i.e., this song. This song, which it’s no easier to articulate my love for it than for any you, so mysterious is that resonance that draws us near. This song, with jaunty chords splashing something languid, like kids playing in a pool.
     This song, which I’m now listening to as I write, not a week later: and hate.
     It’s so bad! I can’t even like it ironically or whatever. Can’t even, really, be bothered to tell you why I hate it so much, but I do. It’s irrational, maybe, but definitely having something to do with the fact of its winning me over so quickly and passionately, only to be thoroughly disappointed later, upon closer, calmer inspection. It’s not fair to turn on a song when really I’m just mourning the death of some part of myself, but so I’ve done: Fuck you, Liquid Summer.

Hey, Coach

So long...but not quite yet. We’re still careening into the parking lot of the Tucson Racquet Club with a giddy smile and bouncin in the driver’s seat. Oh, that could be what it is too: trying to work myself up for the day, get into character, a kind of pep talk for being peppy: Hey, Coach.
     But I swear I don’t, or shouldn’t, need it. These kids are an absolute delight, and no sooner do I step on court than I am immediately melted—in part from the sun, to be sure, which radiates what feels like double the heat off the asphalt, but mostly from the kids, who’re out there too, sweltering and all, havin a good time.
     For instance, one, a little girl all of eight, has taken to calling me Dorito. The other girls in earshot find this hilarious, and immediately pile on: “Dorito! Dorito!” They all want to know what flavor I am, and of course it’s an uncomfortable matter of speculation, not least because now my character is under scrutiny, and it’s not just a game with a name. “Lime?” I offer, meekly, hoping to cool the group-think a bit and just get it over with. No, no, definitely not lime.
     “Cool Ranch!” one of them squeals. To which the initiator offers this objection, confirming my worst fears of a child’s uninhibited judgment, also known as truth: “Yeah but he’s not cool enough, and definitely not a real rancher.”
     By now the water break has gone on long enough, and I’m ready to feed a bottomless cart of balls under the June sun, just to get out from under this, the far more intense, harsher spotlight of their juvenile appraisal. (Plus I worry about how it looks to parents, to have these kids out on the court, braving the heat with layers of SPF and construction-crew water bottles from Home Depot and untold sums of money for what the website promises as “the highest standards by which all other programs in the Southwest are measured,” only to be all giggles, in the shade, on a bench.) But the girls are not done.
     Now they want to know: If I were a card in a deck, what card would I be? And before I can answer, she does, the one with apparently a bright future in ad copy: “I know! The Joker—the one nobody wants to play with.”
     It’s around this point that one of them spots a cricket hopping about and, perhaps accidentally, with the edge of the racquet decapitates it.

How Do I Look?

Back in the car, this being my 2000 Saturn I call the Chameleon (such is the green, shapeshifting), blazing down the highway to get to the outlet mall before closing—or nope, not yet, first stop Circle K.
     The work day done, I’m feeling pretty spent, and could really use a pick-me-up. I’ve also got the 5-gallon water jug I’ve been lugging around in the back of my filthy car, plastic probably melting (at least leaching its toxins into my ultra-purified water), to fill up at the water station, the last two Circle Ks I’d tried having had problems with theirs (one showing an out-of-order message, the other—the one where all the shoot-up druggies hang about—apparently so beyond repair nothing lights up at all). But I guess I’m acting pretty unconsciously again, especially for a day I’m supposed to be paying attention, and as I leave my jug to fill and enter the store I nearly knock over a rack of nuts.
     “And don’t let those shelves attack you on the way out,” says the cashier on my way out.
     It’s funny what other people notice about you. Jung has this great line I can’t get out of my head, which goes something like: We spend our whole lives trying to see in ourselves what a stranger can spot in a glance. I’m not sure whether that’s true, to that extent anyway, but there’s something to be said for the limits of attention, how even giving the day our mindfullest—notice, for once, the grooves on the bottom of the bar of soap, from resting on the rails of the shower rack—isn’t enough to catch ourselves in the act, and the bright beam never quite reflects back. How do I look?
     Back on the highway, can of yerba mate in one hand to wash down the bag of toasty almonds in the other (I swear I’m driving, must have a third hand), now I’m yelling in my car at the sight of the outlet mall, so exalted is it, towering like a cathedral off the exit ramp—when I notice the guy in the ruby Chevy next to me, noticing me, and smile.
     Perhaps he saw my Twitter from earlier, in response to @EssayingDaily’s call to pay attention to what happens to us:
And to what other people pay attention to: “Don’t let those shelves attack you on the way out,” said the @CircleKStores cashier to me (I had collided with the nut wrack earlier).
I mean rack. Jeez I’m oblivious today
Or is that just as [sic] amazingly Freudian slip?
So apparently wrack and rack have different origins—former from shipwreck, latter “stretch.” And yet there’s a ton of crossover, not to mention a ship’s being wrecked a way of perhaps stretching its contents throughout the ocean...
(No likes.)

For Sale: Wedding Shoes, Never Worn

So the whole thrust of this day is basically to get me to Tucson Premium Outlets in Marana before Saks closes at 6. Or so I believe it closes; now I check, I see it in fact closes at 9, and the only reason I can think of for my misinformation is that, having done the math from the date on the receipt, I realize—on June 21—that June 21 is indeed the last day within the 30-day window to return my new shoes, by Calvin Klein, and the shock of that realization creates such a sense of urgency as to totally fabricate store hours to confirm it, feed into it.
     But this is not interesting. (For sale: wedding shoes, never worn...but only because by the time I got them home and tried them on with my whole outfit, they didn’t fit, and otherwise the wedding was great.)
     Indeed, so uninteresting is this little bit of fortuitous planning that by the time I reach Saks, somewhat breathless, I find the cashier there seems to have been expecting me, and is not at all surprised. “Return?” she asks, and I stride up to the counter with my shoebox. “Yes—and would you believe it, today’s the last day!”
     To which she offers no response.


Now it’s just over a week later, and some things haven’t changed. Rod Stewart is still stuck in my tape deck, where I inserted him knowing full well the tape’d gotten plastic-warped in the heat and decided to risk it, thusly committing myself to radio-only pleasures in my Chameleon—then on the way home from the outlet mall, and now, for however many days, perhaps forever, thereafter.
     I find this particularly fitting (pun?), given that I got the tape because my mom chose “Forever Young” as our mother-son dance at my wedding (now divorced) some years ago, and I’d felt a little weird about it but nonetheless went along in full swing, gaining a surprising amount of momentum arm-in-arm with her, waltzing a kind of centrifugal force...the way perhaps our relationships with our mothers must necessarily be, a life of their own, powered as the existentialists suspected by existence preceding essence (who we are always playing catch up to what, to that).
     And so, in a way, I’m always playing my mother’s song, listening to Mom even when I don’t hear any music:
And when you finally fly away, I’ll be hoping that I served you well.
For all the wisdom of a lifetime, no one can ever tell.
But whatever road you choose, I’m right behind you—win or lose.
     (It’s funny, when I first heard this song, at her suggestion, I thought it was about her. I thought that she wanted to remain forever young, and that somehow she was going to live on vicariously through me, relive her marriage through mine...which is not entirely untrue, as perhaps there’s something inherently by-proxy about parenting. But given that, given that our parents are in a way born into us, and we can’t help but carry them with us, this song is really saying: Begin again. It’s imploring us to remain children, perhaps as the Bible does (unless you become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom), perhaps as Zen does (beginner’s mind), perhaps as this prompt, this very day, does.)
     Not that Momma Stewart is all I’m listening to these days! Indeed, the upshot of this perma-tape is that I’ve got to tune into the local KXCI, and thus I found the one—my summer anthem, my Liquid Summer. I know I said I hated them earlier, but today I heard them yet again on the drive to work and had a change of heart.
     I’m not sure what caught me this time: in part, it’s the familiarity, learning to love Liquid Summer as I do my friends and family, first in spite and then because of their flaws (which are many, including and perhaps especially the music video, in which gyrating aliens mime playing instruments against a kind of 90s screen-saver of slow space travel); in part, it’s the mood, where I’m just really hungering for a song to call my own, and it’s this ownership, this mineness, I’m really groovin to; in part, it’s the moment, stopped at a red light on Mountain and blasting the tune out the open windows, and the cyclist beside me can’t help but start tapping his fingers to the beat on his brakes; but all of it, taken together, somehow adds up to something I just don’t know, and never will, and maybe it doesn’t matter.

—Dorian Rolston

Dorian Rolston is an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at the University of Arizona, where he's incoming nonfiction editor for Sonora Review. He also edits the reviews section for Entropy. He is available for tennis lessons.


My longest day of the year began thousands of miles above the Atlantic Ocean. As I hurtled forward in the unremarkable staleness of plane air, I realized that it was, by stroke of midnight, June 21st in London, from where I had traveled to visit my sister, and yet to be June 21st in Boston, my destination. As June 21st unfolded behind me and began before me, I drifted in and out of sleep. The passengers around me had picked through all of foil tins of their dinner—cheesy baked ziti, bulgur salad, chocolate-orange pudding—until we were all surrounded by inordinate and shining tin waste.
     I realized long ago in an airplane, staring ahead at my feet contained by the seat before me, that the best way to fly is to be mostly a body and only sometimes a thinking one. So I tried not to think as the plane undeniably filled with the stench of my fellow passengers, all semi-thinking bodies, passing gas from the baked ziti into the closed-circuit respiratory system of the plane. So this is what June 21st would smell like, I wrote in a note on my phone, which, within the week, would be stolen, erasing all of my precise records of the details of that day. So I would part with my notes about the happenings of the long June 21st that stretched before me in Boston; notes like: I spotted an inflatable saguaro cactus pool floatie in a thrift store, and then a saguaro cactus on a mug in a store window, and then a saguaro cactus on a card that I considered buying for a friend. And I wondered: how many saguaros make a coincidence? And what vision of a desert does a saguaro signify on a mug that delivers caffeine to the lips of a Bostonite? Having lived in Tucson for three years, I missed the charismatic megaflora dearly, especially those with twisted and abnormal arms; the type that doesn’t seem to get replicated and printed on pool toys.
     Though my formal notes from the day are long gone, erased with the ease of wiping data from a stolen phone, what I most remember of June 21st was the children. Before boarding my plane, I had watched a toddler crawl across the ground at Heathrow airport. She sat on her plump diaper and pulled herself along with her hands and feet across the floor. She slapped the grey shining airport tiles enthusiastically, twisting her body as she did so, moving remarkably quickly, as if she were a many-legged octopus escaping its enclosure. As I watched, I thought about the spasmodic and improvised ways in which children move—figuring out how to fill space, how to be bodies, how to be relative to other people. And as I watched, another child, older, walked by holding her father’s hand. She paused before the octopus crawler and gave a broad, toothy smile, in recognition of some childish wisdom the two of them shared. 
     Between departing London and arriving in Boston, I watched children fall asleep in the laps of their parents on the plane, children drag along their own child-size suitcases, children lift their hands to the bathroom sinks and let the water splash upon the chaos of their moving hands. And with each blissful child, with each crying child, with each loving exchange with a parent, I felt the tug of horror at the country I was returning to. June 21st was full of children, many of them happy, but thousands scattered around the country—denied the closeness of parents, or the legal right to seek asylum in a country that had granted immigration to my own ancestors. Yes, the major aura in my memory of June 21st, and the days preceding, the days to follow, was one of anger and dismay, because how many of those children, especially those kept in “tender age shelters” would move the same way—with the freedom of a child’s body—ever again? For the lives yet to unfold ahead of these children, I should not mince words: June 21st was a day of deep national shame.
     Within my own mind, and within the enclave of Boston that I explored, June 21st had minor auras, too; flavors and feelings unique to that day and unique to my state of sleep-deprivation. I arrived at the apartment of a dear friend, slept on a floor beneath a fan that pushed the distinct composition of Boston night air across my face. I allowed myself to notice, in my notes that would soon be erased by a stranger, things that made June 21st remarkable: the slightly fermented pineapple my friend and I ate for breakfast as we listened to children scream and laugh at the nearby playground. The pixelation of world cup players (was it Belgium and Tunisia?) projected on a wall at a café at which I tried to caffeinate and restore some stronger sense of reality to my mind. The warmth of sitting on my friend’s couch cross-legged and catching up on gossip as we had done years before. The heaviness of my footsteps as I walked through a park in which the tongues of small scruffy dogs, passing by, seemed to bounce especially jubilantly. I made an attempt to notice, and with the attempt, each of the things I observed, the people, the dogs, the saguaros, all seemed to become more sacred, in the way that everything becomes sacred when the day is done and you’re right on the cusp of falling asleep.

—Kathryn Gougelet

Kathryn Gougelet received her MFA in creative nonfiction at the University of Arizona in 2018, and is writing a collection of essays about coal, green chile, lobsters, and the lives people make around extractive industries. She is the former nonfiction editor at Sonora Review. Follow her on Twitter @kgougelet.


Families separated at the border. That’s the news, it has been the news for weeks. Wailing toddlers, desperate parents. And now, a glimmer of hope in the president’s reversal of his hated policy, but who knows whether or how those already detained can be reunited? Next door, the neighbour’s dog whines to be let in. My phone vibrates and I open a rare text from my brother. He and I are the only members of our family still alive. I haven’t heard from him in weeks and I’m certain he’s depressed. But he claims he’s fine, just working more, nothing to worry about, nothing the matter.
     In my third-floor office, sun streams through the skylight onto the daybed. Curling there with my laptop and my iced coffee, I barely register the pine desk or my ergonomic chair, the one that seemed so necessary before I bought it. I answer email, open the document I’m editing, read for a while, make some notes, then interrupt myself to brush the cat. He purrs, presenting his chin for a stroke. Cirrus tufts of fur float toward the floor. More texts. My husband, Mark, has been shopping for fans on my behalf. He sends me a couple of options and we decide on one. Then I send him an article about Toronto’s traffic, ranked worst in North America for commuters. We don’t live in the city but we often travel there. Last July we were stuck in a gridlock in the middle of nowhere for over three hours.
     Around noon, I head downstairs for something to eat. Tuna salad or leftover tofu stir-fry? Mark and I debate, settling on tuna. The cat appears, meowing loudly, hoping to steal a taste. Our mail arrives. Among the flyers for cheap pizza and student painters, I find my contributor’s copy of an anthology. Release Any Words Stuck Inside of You: An untethered Collection of Shorts, it’s called. “We love flash fiction, but it gets all the hype,” reads the editorial note. “What about prose poems, nonfiction, vignettes, rants, questionnaires?”
     My head is full of rants and questionnaires.
     I hope they’re planning a sequel.
     From our garden comes the clink of paving stones. We’re having our patio rebuilt. It hasn’t been done in thirty years and the original brickwork has become a crumbling, moss-covered hazard. Two young men crouch in the corners of our yard, chipping away with mallets, every hammer stroke another dollar of our savings. The cat asks to go out, then cries to come in. Out, in. In, out. He’ll go on like that all day. He can’t abide these strangers encroaching on his space. Never mind that they’re nice guys, soft-spoken and polite. Never mind that they address him by name. He refuses their overtures and slinks past, threatened by their industry.
     That evening, after a supper of fish with tomatoes and chorizo, a green salad, and more white wine than is technically good for me, I go for my usual walk, heading west on the lakefront. I turn my face to the light, not wanting to miss a second of it. I’ve been listening to Susan Faludi’s rich and penetrating memoir, In the Darkroom. This is the section where Faludi’s reflections on Jewish history, gender, identity, feminism, and family culminate in a kind of reconciliation with her confusing parent. I will finish the book tonight, and like the long light of the solstice, I don’t want it to end.
     Rounding a corner of the path, I see a mother duck guiding her babies onto the concrete boat ramp. They linger at shore’s edge, ruffling their wings and grooming themselves—all but one, who continues to swim, alone in the deeper water. Is she testing herself, trying out a growing independence? Or is she oblivious? Maybe she’s frightened and loathe to leave her favorite element. It’s impossible to say. The wind picks up, the waves roll in. She paddles toward the open water. But when her mother straightens her tail feathers and waddles decisively toward land, she follows, first swimming hard, then racing across the asphalt path, slipping into the circle, becoming one with the others.

—Susan Olding

Susan Olding is the author of Pathologies: A Life in Essays. Her writing has won a National Magazine Award (Canada) and has appeared in The Bellingham Review, The L.A. Review of Books, Maisonneuve, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, and the Utne Reader, and in anthologies including Best Canadian Essays 2016 and In Fine Form, 2nd Edition. 


I find it hard to recall what happened on the day of 6/21/18. This may seem like a forgivable grievance except that the day in which I am writing this is 6/22/18 and I find myself short of memory. I suspect that this also would have happened on 6/21 in the service of 6/20. But as I am writing about how I cannot quite remember I am starting to indeed remember what happened on 6/21/18.
     For me 6/21 starting at midnight. I had a bit of an epiphany, forcing myself to keep distracted to stop the voice of the tyrant from coming back. The tyrant is the one who reminds me what I should be doing—that I am not doing enough—that indeed I was distracting myself playing video games long into the night instead of engaging with the world around me, with the things that I actually wanted to do, but found no courage to complete. I was playing video games in frustration, in a deep frustration, wanting to be playing better so that my rising discontent would subside. But I was playing worse and worse into the night.
     Finally, a voice of sorts rose up within me. My conscience? God? Perhaps both? Whatever or whoever it was simply said this: “Let go.”
     The child in me came out with some shame: “But I don’t want to.” I said this, hoping the voice would fight back. It didn’t.
     “If that’s what you want, then you can have it.”
     I knew it was not what I wanted, I wanted the voice to pick me up and carry me to where I wanted to be, but it was clear that it was not going to do that. Very well. I found some courage within me somewhere and shut off my game.
     A book that I had purchased off of amazon had arrived the day before, and I picked up it up and started to read. What book was it? “The Myth of Sisyphus,” by Mr. Camus himself. The thing I like most about the existential philosophers is that they are not so much idealists sitting on their high horses, but perhaps the most deeply human and psychological advocates of the intellectual world. I immediately felt understood.
     Yes life is hard and painful! Yes we are all rolling boulders uphill for eternity! Yes, yes, I don’t mind the pain! I want you to gratify my pain, I want to be understood!
     Antics aside, Mr. Camus reminded me that engaging with the things that are important to us is one of the most foundational aspects necessary for a life of richness. He did not say this directly, but it was implied to me through the interest I had in his words. This richness is what I actually want. Most days anyways. I want to learn, explore the great expanses of intergalactic intellectual space travel: how far can ideas carry us? The uncharted territories remain every compelling. So I read on into the night, I didn’t get far because I was taking so many notes and reflecting on so much that I perhaps got 8 pages in after an hour or so. One of the better 8 pages I’ve read in a while.
     Eventually about 3 AM or so I went to sleep, after reading some Vonnegut—who better to set up the mind for dreams of adventure?
     I woke up at 11:30 the next morning. Usually I would have gone back to sleep feeling a little residue from the melatonin, but not this morning—Camus reminded me that life might not be so terrible all the time. I played some more xbox for a bit, and then came the hour when I got a text message from the front desk at my apartment: package delivered for you, please come pick up at your earliest convenience. I knew what it was. A basketball. I already have a basketball, but that basketball is an expensive leather indoor basketball that has been well worn in and not worth the cheap thrill of a dusty Tucson basketball court in the middle of June. That basketball will bounce only on the best of courts.
     I haven’t played in some time. I had played for about 10 years from when I was 7-8 to about 18. College suffocates many childish pursuits, I am finding; but I am also finding that many childish pursuits are necessary to not grow into a cynical rationalist who is already waiting to die by the age of 20. Not anymore! So I took that outdoor basketball and found my pump and went to a nearby park at about 2:30 in the afternoon. Hot as it was, and it was certainly hot, my muscles slowly, and with some prodding, remembered of when basketball was my life and granted me the satisfaction of the ball flicking off my fingertips through the sudden snap of the wrist and the extension of the elbow, holding as my feet meet the ground and then: airball.
     Though slightly embarrassed because I remembered what I once could do on the court, I gave my ego a soft mattress to fall on. It might be like riding a bike, but it is a very rusty bike that needs some oiling up. Being out in the hot sun, though, reminded me of when I was a young boy—perhaps 10 or so—going out to my basketball court at my dad’s house in the summer months, sweat instantly dripping off of me, but I enjoyed playing so much that I would bare the heat. I had imagined being in the NBA, every shot was one step closer — the adventure had just begun. That was my escape from so long. It was everything then, but that dream has since died, though it has indeed been replaced. Mr. Camus reminded me of that dream.
     I returned to my apartment and did laps in the pool for a little while, feeling myself being strengthened with every stroke of my arms and every flutter of my legs. A shower and the usual followed. Then I made an efficient but time-costly meal. I cut up mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers, sauteed them in one pan, and seasoned and cooked ground turkey in the other pan. Finally, I mixed them all together and put in a can of pinto beans, using the can opener that I had just purchased on Amazon a few days before (who would have known that can-openers would have been so expensive?). The meal was quite tasty, and a testament to the financial-efficiency available to a college student if he feels so compelled to oblige it.
     As the evening came in, I went out with friends for the first time in a long time. This for two reasons: 1) These friends were in from out of town and 2) I have yet to make the intimate friendships that I had formed in High School. They are two girls, one of which is the girlfriend of my best friend, the other is her best friend, so naturally they are also my friends. We went to see the Incredibles 2 which was entirely worth the wait (only because I do not have to wait anymore) and there were many laughs shared throughout the film. I had not been to the theatre in some time, and costly as it may be, there is nothing quite like it. Alone in a large dark room enjoying a performance of art that took years to render, you connect with the audience as if a mob when you laugh or yell or cry together, then you walk out, once again complete strangers to each other as if nothing had changed. Nothing quite like it.
     I was dropped off about 10 o’clock or so and preceded to play xbox for a while longer, though I had a raging headache. I played moderately, but one of the reasons I was playing was the my headache didn’t hurt when I was—which really makes no sense to me (other than being distracted numbing the pain)—but I was content for the headache to find some temporary relief. Though, admittedly, going to sleep earlier would have been a more sure relief, but not as fun.
     The xbox was played out of distraction that night, but out of richness: it was actually what I wanted to do.
     I didn’t feel lonely that night, as I have for the better part of the last year, as I was reminded of joyous side of life with some old friends.
     I didn’t take any melatonin that night as I am trying to not become reliant on it for sleep. So I went to bed at 3 again and for some reason, this seems to be rather new phenomenon, was looking forward to the next day. Perhaps there are some adventures to be had, especially the intergalactic sort.

—John Bodine

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

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