‘Orphan’ Essay “Snowflake” to Appear in First Issue of Crux Magazine, 9/17

It’s snowing in August!

The sister-editors in Oakland, CA are starting their own magazine, The Crux, and desire to pay their contributors [bless you, Katie and Jennifer]. This is my second time getting paid for work—the first time I earned $0.015 AUD per word at 994 words.

Never did the math.

Didn’t give up writing either.

The essay depicts the story of my girlfriend leaving me behind at Heathrow for a guy she met on the flight from Boston. It does not have a happy ending.

For me or her.

We arrive at Heathrow with less than thirty minutes to departure. Nebraska throws money at the cabbie and engages a porter to manage the baggage in an act of efficiency that surprises me. I stand there, holding my gym bag to my belly, a pacifier of sorts, pleading silently at Lexi. Eye contact, Lex, make eye contact with me. She doesn’t. Nebraska takes hold of her arm and whisks her through the retracting doors and into the terminal. I watch them, a good-looking couple, scurry and break through the pockets of people — Michael Cole and Peggy Lipton of the Mod Squad. The porter trots after them. I follow in their wake.

 

A boarding call for the flight penetrates the PA system. Nebraska and Lexi stand before a pre-ticketed counter. They’re changing her flights. She is reaching into her purse, the two of them conversing to one another and an agent, then she starts back to where I’m standing in the midst of the foot traffic, being bumped and fumbled about in a state of befuddlement. Once before me, everything around her blurs into gray, chaos goes underwater. I gaze into her face wide-eyed,  imploring, Lexi, let’s go back to the inn. “His name is Lane,” she says.

 

“Lane?”

 

“You keep calling him Nebraska.” Her expression is dead serious. “His name is Lane.”

 

She just said Lane two times. Her processor is defunct.

 

“Lexi–”

 

“Here’s some cash.” She stuffs a wad of green into my hand.

 

“Lane has invited us to a small family wedding in the Botanic Garden in Meise.”

 

I already know this. She points to a ticketing counter with a queue that zigzags around four times.

 

“Lexi, you don’t even know ‘Lame’ and have no business attending the wedding. Where’s your head? What about our plans?”

 

Her eyes well-up. I’ve never seen anyone look so much like they’re going to cry but the tear doesn’t swell over their lower eyelid. I tell her, “He’s short-tempered and an asshole.” Football players saunter by and I’m clobbered on both sides by equipment bags—balls and cleats. I elbow away the last of it. “What if he hurts you?”

 

Lane appears. The tear at last makes the leap over Lexi’s lower eyelid and tracks down her face. He takes her arm, pulls her away, as if we’re not in mid-conversation, as if we didn’t share profound intimacy the night before. Lexi knew my true intentions all along, and she created Nebraska, Brussels, and the trashy getup to sabotage my own manifestation.

 

The two of them dash toward the departing gate. “Lexi, don’t go.” I say it in sotto voce, it’s all I got.

 

I watch them until they become smaller and smaller and finally disappear. Lexi didn’t look back.

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T-boned [Gravel Literary Magazine]

Outside the ER it’s a winter wonderland. Snow pelts the ground. Visibility is practically nil. Two men dressed in bright lime-colored gear, crisscross one another gathering snow in the plastic blades of their shovels. The sliding doors retract and close; the sensor dumb to their indiscreet footsteps. Sirens scream into the dense moisture-laden air; an ambulance appears in the circular drive. Its beacons intermittently strobe the exterior of the entryway. EMTs hop and pop from the circus of lights and noise, emissions choking out of the vehicle’s exhaust; open the rear doors wide to wheel out the wounded.

It’s the perfect sort of day for a boy and a girl to curl up with Grandma’s crocheted afghan, a movie, and bowl of hot soup, one of the EMT muses. Cop a feel when a parental unit isn’t paying any attention. Watch the snow coat the ground and evergreens with a fresh blanket of white. Stay out the elements, keep safe and sound. Like what Barry Burbank, WBZ’s weatherman, said this morning.

Keep safe. And sound.

I am not aware of the siren screams, nor the strobes and snow falling, the men shoveling and carting in damaged bodies. I don’t recall that I’m in the midst of college break, it’s right smack midway through the glorious eighties, I’m nearly twenty and leaving my teens behind. I don’t know my first love, the one I’m supposed to be curled up with and swatting his hands away from my breasts, is reluctantly chatting with his mother in the small ER waiting room designated for loved ones of the injured about which new car she’ll buy since the Jaws of Life just destroyed her other one.

I lay comatose in an adjacent room. My mind, the faculty of my consciousness and thoughts, remaining numb to stimuli. There’s no perception, no transmission; it’s void, dark, deadly quiet. My brain is busy sustaining that void, deploying an arsenal of chemicals to compensate for the split in time, suppressing the sensory receptors from the blunt trauma—my broken bones, the hit taken to my abdomen that’s pulverized tissue and organs, and punctured veins and arteries. My heart, the renegade, the betrayer, as always, is not listening to my brain—its pumping blood out at a spastic rate through the holes.

An external disturbance registers. A voice. It’s relentless, miraculously breaking through that mechanism of my brain’s fortification, bringing me into the present. Breathe, Lease, breathe, it commands. There is only one person that calls me Lease. My mother. The person who heard Burbank’s forecast and eyeballed the elements herself and tried to protect me so my brain wouldn’t have to. I am granted a fleeting window of awareness. But not through my eyes. My lids are heavy, steel traps. A depiction of involuntary desperateness is felt in my body. Each gasp caused by my choking, thrusts a knife’s blade deep into my gut. Choke. Stab. Choke. Stab.

“Airway’s bloody.”

Something foreign is tickling the back of my throat. I listen to my mother, it’s a precedent. I stop resisting. Succumb. A tube slips down my windpipe. I can breathe. The stabbing doesn’t abate, giving rise to the melodramatic statement, it only hurts when I breathe. And not breathe. My brain is wrestling, calling me back to unconsciousness; the pain galaxies beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before, flirts with my semi-consciousness, invites me to become fully awake. It’s a struggle. A shot of morphine provides no contest. My brain, working in concert with my mind, fires the artillery it has left. A barrage of fireworks ignites behind the closed lids of my eyes. I fall into that quiet dark place again.