Sunday, July 27, 2014

the spy

she looked like louise brooks, wore a black and white toile cheongsam made of linen, strappy pumps from the 20's and smoked an unfiltered cigarette from a cocktail length ivory holder. she was taller than most of the men in the room and stood alone near the champagne glass pyramid. her reputation was that of an outspoken atheist and there were whispers that she was a spy.

i could tell she was memorizing faces and who spoke with who. i wondered who she worked for and if my face was on her radar.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

new baby

she had new baby and had just purchased her 2nd house. she insisted she wanted to come along with me to do a bit of fancy shopping and have lunch even though she was in the middle of a move. when i opened the door i was surprised to see her without the baby. when i asked her about it she said, 'it's fine. it's asleep in the car-seat at the house. it will never even know i'm gone.' i looked at her closely and clocked simmering contempt. i knew her man was out of town on business and she didn't have any help that day. i resisted the urge to inquire any further and collected my things. as we walked in the intentionally charming and eclectic shopping district, her speech and behavior struck me as manic. every window held magnets that drew out her 'oooohs! and 'aaaaahhhs!' she giggled and chatted endlessly about nothing. she flipped her hair and grinned coquettishly at men that passed. any time i obliquely broached a topic that might lead us into a domestic conversation she quickly changed the subject and i saw shards of glass glint in her eyes. i began to suspect that she had killed her baby. i wrestled with myself and wondered if i should take some action. i decided to observe.

the excursion went on much longer than originally planned and as the hours walked by i pictured her tiny infant strapped in an upright position mewing like a weak kitten as it baked to death in some undisclosed location. when she suggested i drop her at her new place i agreed, even though i fully expected to meet some horror there.

she opened the door to her swanky loft and i saw that it was swarming with her female relatives- sisters, aunts, mother. all were abuzz in service of the infant- which was alive, pink and contentedly asleep. she blew past the baby without a glance and insisted that she walk me through the place. visually, it was stunning- modern, clean, light and airy. but as i walked through the rooms i could feel a slight bounce in the floor and it felt hollow under my feet. my eye traveled over the joins in the walls and windows and indeed everything was 'off'. it was as though i was walking through a hastily constructed film set.

after the tour, we exchanged superficial pleasantries and i made my exit.

Friday, July 25, 2014


bill was funny, smart, 5'3", a billionaire and complained to me constantly that he couldn't find a woman he was compatible with who didn't just want him for his money.

amy was tall, blond, willowy, mobbed by men like an ovum surrounded by sperm and completely sick of it. she just wanted one man who wanted her for her and would be true.

i introduced bill to amy. the chemistry between them looked like little charms being thrown into the air. they had two magical dates, one of which was in period costume. amy looked like a proper lady and when she opened her door to bill, even though he looked entirely like a leprechaun- she was smitten. they laughed and laughed. i thought, 'they see each other'.

one afternoon amy surprised bill by leaving a silly note and some flowers on his doorstep. the door opened violently and revealed bill's angry wife and behind her, a house full of sullen, spoiled teenage children. walking by in his boxers in the deep background was bill with a paper tucked under his arm just coming out of the loo. accusations, denials, and a tearful, heartbroken amy resulted.

i later told bill he was an idiot and that he should keep his fantasy lonely life to himself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

the girl

i was young and optimistic. i had not yet been hurt by anything too deeply and so i still had the ability to trust and believe. my colleague had, months earlier been to this very place to interview this very girl with no success. she had not just been frozen out, but very quickly felt herself in danger and left (she was sure) with barely her life.

i followed the girl through her world- a labyrinth of poverty in the shape of an endless succession of ramshackle rooms thrown together from other peoples garbage. there were holes to step over, large pieces of rotten plywood to lift, filthy, rotting curtains to brush through. all the while i followed her, she kept laughing and looking back at me over her shoulder to see if i was still keeping pace. 'when can we talk?' i asked her after many minutes had gone by and i was hopelessly lost. 'when we get to the roof, silly!', she answered playfully. i wondered if she was leading me to doom or really taking us to a place she would feel comfortable opening up. we finally reached a room with a tube of sunlight describing itself from the ceiling to the floor in the thick atmosphere of dust motes. she squeezed herself with difficulty behind a thing that looked somewhat like a ladder and started to climb. my claustrophobia clutched and scraped at the inside of my chest. 'i can't follow you that way.' i said offering no other explanation. she stopped and put a little mischievous grin on her mouth, 'i was just kiddin', you can do it this way.'. she then very easily crawled up the front. i felt rattled now. she had tried to scare me and that left me with worry.

when we reached the roof, a wave of relief washed over me. she said many times that she liked me and that i was not like 'the other one'. as i interviewed her i began to lose my objectivity. her words were interlaced with so much hatred for things that were not of her world that i found myself growing angry. soon i was on my feet challenging her every small-minded notion. my voice was growing louder but i had no sense of it because of the injustice i felt in my heart.

i took a breath and saw the anger in her eyes. it was then i remembered where i was and that i had no idea how to get out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

the whale

i was staying at a spectacular 1930's seaside resort that rested on a massive rock jutting out into the water. my room was beautiful and after a late lunch on the patio i decided to walk and take in the beauty of my surroundings. all the railings on the paths were cast concrete sculpted to look like wood and under foot were native stones carefully matched and laid out by hand. the foliage was mature, canopied the path here and there and felt wild. i looked out onto the sea and felt bathed in blue. the surf was breaking in a crisp, cinematic manner and seabirds punctuated the sky like musical notes. as i watched the surf break, my eye caught a large streak of grey. i looked more closely and realized it was a whale being tossed toward the beach. i felt my heart start to pound as i ran toward the shore. i grabbed at my phone and tried to dial the correct agency but my mind was drawing a blank. as i drew nearer i could see that several strong men had already waded in to help the creature. with great effort they tried to keep her oriented so her blowhole was upright. as a foamy wave retracted we all saw a gaping wound on her head with brain matter falling out in little gelatinous clumps. almost in that same moment we saw her newborn calf struggling in the heaving surf. several of the men swam out and pulled her in. she was crying like any baby. we waited for help. the sadness was a boulder on us all.

oyster man

he lived in a shanty tucked away under the boardwalk on the pier. his skin was the color of browned butter and his hair was dull with dry salt from the sea. he said he ate only from the ocean and did i want to see? i put on my goggles and dove in after him holding my breath as i watched him pry oysters from the creosote impregnated piers. as he chipped away, clouds of marine detritus released into the sea. one by one he placed them into the net bag tied around his waist. we broke the surface for air and then dove to the bottom for urchins. i followed him out of the water and pulled myself onto the boardwalk. he handed his bounty to a man in a kiosk and said when we came back it would all be cooked and delicious. i told him i did not want to eat anything but thanked him for the adventure.


amy and i were sisters and even though she was as chatty as a squirrel, i enjoyed traveling with her. we took a drive for the weekend and stayed at rather snooty hotel just to give ourselves a treat. saturday night we had our usual back and forth about who would set the alarm and amy insisted she would do it or be angry about it (sisters...). i woke up to amy chatting on the phone with one of her girlfriends. her conversation was (as usual) about totally nothing and as i moved into the conscious world i figured she had got up before her alarm and let me sleep in because she knew i was tired. as my eyes focused, i saw that it was 1 p.m. which was past checkout time. i freaked out because we had to be back in town on monday morning and i didn't want to pay for another night we couldn't even use. i started to scramble to pack up my things and pull on my clothes and realized that amy had unpacked EVERYTHING and actually 'decorated' while i was sleeping making it a total easter egg hunt to find my things and pack up. as i rushed around the room finding and shoving my belongings into my bag, i cradled the phone to my ear with my shoulder and tried to talk the front desk out of charging us for another night. they reluctantly agreed but only because the hotel was at capacity and the next guests were at the front desk at that moment. i swore we would be out in five minutes. i was in that horrible state of forced emergency mode from dreamland and everything was still blurry around the edges. amy was talking away the whole time saying she didn't realize the time and just wanted me to rest and didn't the room look pretty at least? i was floored by the amount of stuff she had packed and was just using my arm to sweep our belongings all mixed together into our bags. we were still shoving together our stuff when the houseman arrived to clean our room for the incoming guests. he was clearly annoyed and not softened a bit by my apologies. as we were dragging our bags into the hallway like refugees, two elegant and beautiful gay men approached. they took us in and i could see they thought we looked terribly out of context. 

not tired anymore

i just wanted to go home. i was crabby, demoralized and so tired from work that my bed seemed like the only place i should be. people kept passing me as i headed for my car and saying, 'are you coming?'. i didn't know what they were talking about and assumed i had just been attending to some work emergency when word was being passed around earlier in the day about meeting for drinks when the day was done. as i headed to the parking structure i could see the stream of people making a steady right just before the entrance to the structure. i was walking slower than most because i was carrying a lot of stuff and my arms and legs felt like lead. as i reached the turn off point, one of the people looked at me with a beautiful smile and shining eyes eyes before they walked to the right. in that moment i decided to 'go'. i turned to the right and found myself in a long, dark passageway. i could just make out a light at the far end and it illuminated my path enough that i didn't lose my footing on the uneven ground. my bags were heavy and there was a slight incline making the effort i had to expend to walk it almost unbearable. as i drew closer to the light i could see the color becoming a cool blue. more people passing me and smiling. i thought about turning back but i was 2/3rds there and i really just decided it would be better to get there and find someplace to rest a bit before i went back to my car. as i reached the entrance, the blue intensified and i could make out the massive ragged cavernous opening that let into the space. the ground grew more steep and i had to look down to watch my step as i pressed on.

suddenly i was in the space. it was living, pure, highly oxygenated untouched planet earth. vast expanses of beautiful vistas stretched out before me. i immediately felt energized and became overwhelmed by the beauty. i dropped my bags, fell to my knees and began to cry with total abandon. as people passed me, they touched my shoulder and said, 'i know...' i turned my tear-filled eyes in every direction and everything i saw was more beautiful and breathtaking than i imagined anything could ever be. i stretched out onto the soft, green moss beneath me. i rolled onto my back and looked at the periwinkle sky. pure white altocumulus and cumulus clouds rolled by gently in the sky. after a long while i rolled over on my belly and cradled my head in my arms as i looked past the verdant mountains toward the sea.

i felt whole and peaceful and deeply happy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


she was from the cold war era and wore only grey. as i tried to explain sky, periwinkle, sapphire, cerulean, cyan, slate, indigo, tiffany and all the others i could describe she stared at me as though i was speaking portuguese.

finally i gave up and just said, 'blue'.

she immediately scribbled the word on her clipboard and walked out the door.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

red lasers

something had happened to brad and angie and they were being sent to another dimension with the kids until it all got sorted out. everything was so frantic and time was running out. dogs, diapers, toys, clothes...everything necessary had to be named or it wouldn't go with them. we were all scrambling like crazy. at one point i looked up and and noticed brad's hair was grey and i felt surprised. i said he should just go with it because it suited him. he said they wouldn't let him. pretty soon everything started to be described with red laser lines that seemed to appear from within the house but i was still inside trying to help them. i kept jumping over the scans and angie said, 'shandra, just go, if we don't have it we don't have it' brad was wandering around all slo-mo and i was starting to get pissed at him. i saw him in the yard screwing around with the kids toys. 'dude, they've started scanning. get back inside!' the trouble had started with him anyway and i thought it was shitty that he was the only one not feeling affected by it.

once the dematerialzation began, i had to jump out of the house. i exchanged i love yous with everybody from outside the door as i watched the lasers scan everyone line by line into the other dimension. i was relieved that it didn't seem to hurt. even the dog seemed not to be bothered by it.

when the lasers hit the outside of the house i remembered something inside one of the cars i wanted to toss onto the porch for them. i ran to the car, unzipped one of the bags on the floor and saw two 4 week old perfectly royal blue puppies in the bottom of the bag. 'shit' i said out loud because i knew i would have to be responsible for them now. i left the bag open so they could breathe and decided to drive away in the car once the house was gone since angie and brad wouldn't need it anymore.

i walked to the end of the dock as the house was scanned and transferred line by line. i don't know why i pulled in the boat because none of it really mattered anymore. i grabbed a pile of stuff from the deck and when i tossed it in the cabin, a black extension cord fell overboard. i ran to the rail thinking i could retrieve it only to watch the last moment it was visible as it snaked into the inky depths. i felt worried that i had added one more hazard in the tangle of toxic human detritus filling the sea.

Friday, July 4, 2014

4th of july

i had traveled by train to the deep south on the 4th of july weekend to see my nieces. i wasn't really looking forward to it because of all of the cultural differences between me and that branch of my family, but i hadn't seen the girls for ages and i didn't know when i would be free again so i bit the bullet and sent word that i would come. i took the train as a way to eat up a big chunk of the three day weekend. i figured it would be a nice experience and minimize my exposure to the inevitable jesus references and the pervasive core belief system built around the color of the human dermal layer. as the train pulled into the station i spotted my nieces sitting unaccompanied outside of a fast food stand. the girls watched the train cars pass but instead of excitement or anticipation, their faces held only angry, flat teenage 'boredom'. it was the worst possible sight. i had been hopeful that at least i could enjoy their last bits of shining childhood and insulate myself somewhat from the experience of the rest of the family. i knew now that i was facing two days of indifference from a pair of newly sprouted redneck teens sporting first year breasts, daisy dukes, flip flops and a palpable longing to only hang with members of their dim-witted peer group. as the train stopped i sighed audibly. there would be nothing for me here but jaw clenching, tongue biting and watching the time crawl by until i could leave. i was painfully sorry i had come and mad at myself for wasting my days off. i waited until the last person left the car before i stood and grabbed my bag. when i finally stepped onto the platform the two girls looked at me with about as much enthusiasm as someone about to tar your roof on a hundred degree day.  i walked up to where they sat and put my bag on the hot ground. 'hey.' they said with just the faintest hint of contempt. i slid onto the cement seat at the tall cafe table where they were planted, 'hey.', i said back. they made fleeting eye contact but were mainly interested in scanning the perimeters of the station for any other teens. 'where are your parents?' i asked finally. 'they said wait.' one of them answered. i started going over alternate scenarios in my head- the first of which was just not having gotten off the goddamned train when i'd read their faces. 'do me a favor,' i said as i dropped a 20 on the table, 'order us something and watch my bag while i go find a ladies room.' i slid off the stool and walked away. i didn't care where my feet led me. i pulled out my phone to connect with someone who could help me pull myself together, but when i went to dial i did not have even one bar. i wandered like a lost disciple in the desert with my arm held up like an antenna watching desperately for the slightest hint of a signal but it was useless. i looked at my phone and felt pure hatred and betrayal. i briefly contemplated smashing it into the pavement and watching it break into a thousand gratifying pieces, but like every other previous bar-less betrayal i'd endured with my little electronic master, i swallowed my anger and slipped it back into my pocket unharmed.

when i returned to the table the girls were slurping dry their icy cokes and just finishing the last bits of the two burgers they had ordered for themselves. with stuffed mouths they silently shoved the greasy left over bits of their burgers into my hand. almost immediately a scraggly gang of young and hungry starlings landed on the table and asked emphatically to be fed. i tore up the pieces in my hand and let them gobble it all up. as i wiped my hand with a wad of paper napkins a porter walked a tagged bicycle over to a skinny, angry new york teen and a plump dark haired woman who was obviously a local. the woman reached for the bike but the teen grabbed it before she got a grip and immediately threw a leg over the seat and started pumping the pedals fast and hard. as she sped away she screamed back over her shoulder, 'fuck you, mom! i only like black people!'

i looked at my nieces and wished i could switch them with the new york kid.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

a secret

it looked as though the entire nation was in the national square. the white noise from the crowd had a joyful, hopeful sound. the colorful changing streetlights and route markers interspersed with the regularly spaced warm amber street lights shining upon the buildings and the people below in the plaza made everything seem almost christmas-y. it was hard not to feel good.

we were both a little out of breath but smiling. her secret service agents had struggled to keep pace with us as we made the steep ascent and so for a few moments when we reached the pinnacle we found ourselves alone. the vantage point was spectacular and the visual majesty alone would have been enough for anyone but me. i could not help but ask her to confirm what i already knew in my heart to be true. 'it's over isn't it?' i said. she looked at me and and then back out over the crowd. her expression dulled. 'please,' i pressed, 'i just need to hear it from you'. her minders were almost within earshot now. 'yes,' she answered quietly, 'it's over'. i nodded. at that moment we were again engulfed by her presidential protectors and no other words passed between us.

after a short while she and her entourage descended the platform without me. the night wind was warm and soft. i held myself against the rail and looked out upon the sea of creatures like me. i thought about how isolating it was to always want to know what was true instead of what was comforting, but i was flooded with feelings of love and nostalgia just the same. everyone looked beautiful, everyone felt dear to me. i decided in that moment never to tell another human soul what i knew.