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Because it’s easy

Motherhood is one big lifestyle reality show for Samantha. She looks like someone on TV with her oversized head and bleached smile.  Based on a score card of her invention she is an exceptional mother. Just because she can get my kids to eat cauliflower doesn’t mean she’s a better mother. Time will tell. Her seven year old already knows he’s gay but Samantha hasn’t looked him in the eye since he outgrew wearing Robeez slip-ons. Her daughter’s future food pyramid will have prescription meds as the base.
At her last effortless and perfect brunch she poisoned my kid with her gluten-free pancakes stuffed with ricotta. Apparently homemade and gluten-free nullifies Brianne’s lactose intolerance.
She claimed ricotta has minimal lactose and that Bri’s reaction was due to withdrawal from the toxins in her regular diet.  I kept the voicemail. My lawyer says it’s a solid case and we’ll clean up on damages.

8 min on the F train 8.29.14
Prompt from transit ad for food delivery

“Do you want my seat?”

‘Hey, I’m sorry about Chivalry.”
” I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“Sure, of course , I just wanted you to know – ”
“Yeah. Ok. I get it. Thanks.”
I wish I had a door to slam in his face but it’s a loft. I don’t want him here but the calendar hasn’t cooperated and this is his weekend with our dad. I’m with my dad every weekend because my mother is dead. Demian is a product of my father’s misguided grief.
I’ve asked Demiam to stop commenting on the “irony” of my dog’s death.
“I mean c’mon,” he starts, ” you knew the day would come you’d have to say..” I charge at him pushing him backwards out of the room. “Shut. Up!”
“Stop pushing me! It was just a dog.”
I stop pushing and I pull him in close,
“I will scoop your bastard eyes out with my thumbs if you do not shut the fuck up right now.”  The words shoot out my mouth like bullets and lodge in the soft flesh of Demian’s feelings. I don’t care.

8 min on the F train Tuesday night 5.27.14
prompted by a chivalrous young man during rush hour

Staring games

You think you can intimidate me but I can see the ugly inside you. You think your crisp shirt and pressed skirt hide the dark stain but it bleeds through your pores.
Your lower jaw juts forward ever so slightly daring me to maintain eye contact, challenging me to look past the small town freckles and peachy skin, challenging me to see your ugly truth. You think I’ll look away when I see your secret. You think I’ll look away before you see my secret. But I want you to see it.
On the periphery of my vision your clawed fingers clutch your purse. There is an ossified cruelty in your knuckles. Your crone’s hands have knit miles of cheap synthetic yarn, spreading your bitterness down through the generations you had no part in propagating. The longer we stare the more you share your story, your twisted desperate story. The end. You blinked.

8 min on the F train 5.22.14
prompted by the staring stranger across from me

Strong language

I finally stopped swearing. It was my last sin and now I’m perfect. In thought, word and deed. It’s all energy you know, like Guru Gukkamayamaya says. My energy is now pure white light. If you could see my aura like Guruji can, you’d see a halo of angelic white glowing with every color of the rainbow. You’d see it all simultaneously. Remember that experiment in Mr Spence’s science class with the prism? Guruji doesn’t need a prism.
Guruji says the power is in the mantra. The mantra gives the power to choose new choices. I make different choices now. The hole in my tongue is gone. Guruji says I created a forked tongue with the piercing but now I can speak purity and truth again. You can clean your soul with words. All that is past is past, I don’t speak about the past to keep it from polluting the present. Whenever the memories come I go back to the mantra. I’m cleansing my soul with words.

8 min on the F train 5.21.14
prompt sourced from transit ad

Pxxxxxxx Wxxxxx-Columbia University-OBGYN

Pxxxxxxx picks at the bright violet nail polish. She must remember to remove it tonight, the color irritates her. Clea chose it. It was Clea’s graduation and she’d chosen shades of lilac and violet in tribute to her new school’s colors. Pxxxxxxx wished that afternoon at the nail salon had gone better. Clea was so demanding and difficult with the nail technician that Pxxxxxxx over tipped out of guilt. Her daughter often made scapegoats of service industry personnel but that day her cruelty was criminal.
Today’s lunch is an attempt to diffuse the tension but Clea resumes her list of grievances as if three days had not passed. Pxxxxxxx swallow her words with the dusty gluten mass in her mouth. She reaches for her water-glass, recognizing she will forever have a deficit with her child.

8 min on the F train, 5.20.14
prompt from a commuter’s laminated ID lanyard

Leaving us at summer’s end

She looks just like Josephine Robin from fourth grade. But older.  She’s got the same bee stung movie star lips and Japanese anime eyes, except she doesn’t have that steely malevolence in her eyes.  Something took her spark away, her eyes are oversize pools of sadness.  And maybe a little crazy is mixed in there.  Even though her clothes are clean and her hair is pulled back neatly, there are little signs she’s been on the streets for a while; the hair’s a little greasy and there’s grime around her knuckles and under her fingernails. Her sign says she’s just trying to get a bus ticket.  I put the dollar into her hat with my left hand, and secretly believe that she is Josephine Robin and this is proof karma catches up with you.

8 min on the F train, 5.16.14
prompt sourced from Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I can’t remember dates or decades

“True story! Can you believe it? Some History Major right?” She says the last bit into the glass, literally into the glass because Caroline is drinking from the oversized wineglass I gave her ten years ago for our anniversary.  The big bowled goblet is part of the problem because it forces a big pour.  Caroline has always protested when served wine in a European style tumbler, “Darlin’ I’m from the land of supersize me, y’all better fill her up.”  She doesn’t have an accent anymore but puts it on for effect. Of course she’s good at that, it’s her job.  Bring the scene to life!  But now that there are fewer scenes coming her way she performs the same dinner party patter in repertory.
“Yes, terrible memory for dates. Dreadful.  But the speeches just locked into my cells.”  She taps the glass to her temple, her wink slowing into a blink.

8 min on the F train, 5.15.14
prompt sourced from Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang


Everything is going to be fine

The first thing I notice is her eyes are still a little puffy.  She looks exotic like she’s got mixed race blood.  No one else would notice unless you knew they only look chinese-y when they’re swollen.   Then I notice she’s still wearing ht e coated paper ID band from the hospital.  She’s smiling broadly, showing me all the gaps in her teeth, showing me everything is going to be okay.  She’s okay.  She want’s to know how my week with Mami was.  I’m staring at the little book she’s clutching in her hand ; it is a little palm sized book with a big yellow daisy on the cover. I notice two fingernails are the only casualties to her prized manicure. My mom has the longest, fanciest nails of any mom of my class.  I think no one will know what happened and then I notice the fourth bad thing. Even with the expert makeup job from her working at the MAC cosmetics counter you’ll eventually notice the impression of his boot tread on her forehead.

8 min on the F train, 5.13.14
prompt source was the title of a prayer booklet being read out loud on the train

Let us do the dirty work

It was a pretty good deal wasn’t it? A pair of useless eyes in exchange for on call minions.  Oh the early days were grand.
My eldest daughter was always able to mollify me, she’s an excellent salesman – pardon me, person.  She really could sell anything – often did too, until rehab made her more discerning.  Oh yes, the pitch for Hamilton Manor was perfect. I was even promised a corner suite, something my husband, bless his incontinent soul, always aspired to in life before diapers.
Funny, at first I thought the shadowy movements in the corner of my eyes were ghosts.  I didn’t tell anyone about them of course. And then I realized that was al I was seeing – shadows and shapes.  And then lickety split I had a staff of people doing things for me.  Even things I didn’t’ want done for me and had to fight to keep dominion over – I’m legally blind not legally useless.  You can imagine darlings that the joke of being to Hamilton Manor born wore thin fairly quickly.

8 min on the F train, 5.12.14
prompt sourced from subway ad

The buildings were massive

The Center Park is my favorite place; way up at the top where there are the fewest tourists.  I feel like a real New Yorker complaining about tourists.  The best way to do it is walking behind them when they stop to take pictures, then you shout “Come On” and walk around them fast.  I don’t think the point is to make tourists not take pictures of big buildings, it’s more like “Hey! Buddy! We’re not all on holiday here.”

I was never like this tourist taking photographs when I first came. I didn’t have a camera but down in Chinatown I bought cheap postcards of all the places I saw.  I covered my small walls quickly.  The buildings in the photos don’t scare me like the real ones.  I walk fast down the streets where the building towers cover the sky; fast like a New Yorker.  We have to walk fast enough to avoid falling buildings.

8 min @ Queens Library on 5.8.14
prompt lifted from Black Boy by Richard Wright