On the Strength of This Expectation

You stop for samples; blood oranges, Valencia, red navels, dancy tangerines, ruby red grapefruits.  The stop is halfway out of your city, the small, dreary beach town you escape often to go to Orlando.  Your mom never buys the bags, four pounds of oranges for three dollars.

Your mom drives and you listen to a CD. It spins on your lap inside the cobalt blue player; N’SYNC, the Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin, Eminem, and the one you don’t tell people you still listen to- Britney Spears.  Your mom drives and the landscape changes fast from identical beige houses to miles and miles of highway that stretch like a scrunchie out across central Florida.  You are a kid though, and nothing is going to happen to you, or maybe everything. 

Your brother stopped coming with you on trips like this.  He wouldn’t be caught dead with his arms around Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.  You’re still young enough to hug a character, to smile ear to ear when Pluto kisses you with his big nose.  You curtsey for Minnie, you pose and your mom takes a picture on your digital camera, and you have to wait until you’re back in the hotel room to upload them to your laptop, the one that will last you until college when it overheats and dies and you learn the importance of “backing up.” 

You watch fireworks with your mom from the balcony of your hotel room, both of you too tired to have stayed in the park, the buzz of Magic Kingdom music still ringing in your ears, and it makes it hard to sleep.  You try to tune it out with a little Everyone Loves Raymond on the TV.  

You left school early for this.  You were taken out of class and signed out in the office.  Everyone wondered where you went.  You felt special, you felt lucky, you felt happy to spend the weekend with your mom.   

It’s not until years later that you’ll realize how much this means, to both of you.  But when you’re on the way back home thinking again about some boy who will not matter, you imagine your life a thing you’re always leaving, coming back to.  You imagine a turning point, an edge.  You will not picture the edge, you will leave the edge.  It’s hard to explain, but it feels like driving home means something, maybe because you won’t always be able to do it, to drive back, to come back.

Another February Entry

Your language is a soft curtain of love coming at me.

Yesterday was the beginning of Pisces season.

Describe an important goal that you recently achieved.

Tell me about your mother.  Tell me about your suffering. 

What do you want me to say?

Recall your earliest memory. 

My last boyfriend was wrong for me all along because he was a Virgo.

Do you know about heaven?

Describe how you felt when you achieved your goal.

I want to know what Mars smells like or how Saturn’s rings feel.

Maybe this is unsettling, and I'm sorry.

Our timelines have met.

Fait Accompli

Another dream where things aren’t going well and all I can do is wait it out- an imaginary party and we’re all there, a bowl of peanuts, spicy, blackened, bad.

I used to wear contact lenses.  It was a pain getting them in and out.  In a dream, one has been stuck for eight years behind my eye and the doctor removes it with ease and laughs, as if he was amused by my obliviousness.  I cried when I saw the lens, plastic and blue, that had been floating around back there for some time.  It had been there through three heartbreaks and four houses.  It had felt tears I didn't know were coming.  It watched me promise not to go back, that one lens that lasted so long.  And now, awake, I wonder what the metaphor is, for that lens must mean something is stuck in my mind, something that is waiting to be removed.

If I could talk to you, I would tell you that I'm not mad, and that I wish you weren’t either.  I'm sorry about what happened.  I wouldn’t say, “These things happen.”  I'm not sure what I would say, but it wouldn’t be that.  No, it would have to be something much better, wouldn't it?

Neutral Buoyancy

I am now at the age I was when I met him; 29.  The way I see the world is vast and I no longer feel the need to hate everything as I did when I was 24.  “Take note of what it feels like to be alive right now.”  Sometimes the sauce does not come out right.  Sometimes you burn the pan and have to scrape it with a spatula and pour everything down the drain.  Everyone’s back on green tea, and they’re making it without caffeine now. 

I take Laurel Canyon all the way to West Hollywood, my favorite way, and meet C for lunch at a spot we’ve both been wanting to try.  DineL.A. is still happening, and we get a three-course meal.  It’s beginning to warm up outside.  On my hike this morning it was forty-six degrees, and now it’s seventy-four at 2:00pm.  “Things are really starting to look up,” she says, and tries three different spoons full of soup.  We are so lucky to be here. 

A year ago I was knee deep in food service.  I'm not too good for it now, but I was so in it that I did not see a way out.  I was four days a week: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, with my other weekdays spent tutoring, driving up at down the Canyon, usually around 5:00pm, the worst time to be in the Canyon.  You moved so much slower, and you lost service sometimes, the song went out on Spotify and you had to sit in silence for a while.  You had to think about what you didn't have.  I always bought iced coffee and it’d melt by the time my session was over.  I was just trying to be myself, and I spent a lot of nights reading, a lot more reading than I'm doing now.

You’ll float back up to the surface if you’re not careful.

I bought myself a Groupon to the Salt Suite.  I sat in a room covered in salt for an hour, three times a week, for a month.  They had recliner chairs and iPods with relaxing music, guided meditations, and I’d bring paperwork from my therapist, activities that were supposed to help me get over my ex.  I had to list my positive qualities, my negative ones, my hobbies, my interests, my fears.  I had to draw lines from what I thought he was doing to what I wanted to be doing.  Every so often I’d graze the floor and bring a pile of salt to my lap, feel its grit in between my fingers, release it back to the ground.  I’d come out of that place covered in white streaks.  I’d come out breathing differently, the salt still stuck in the back of my throat for hours.

Upon Receiving Instruction

I have never seen this place before.  I'm reading two books at once.  It makes for variant mornings and nights.  I do not feel terrible.  American Ninja Warrior is on TV.  I am incorporating more greens into my diet.  Green juice, green leaves.  I just realized the show is from 2015, two years behind.

Everyone is eating taro. 

Emotional Garnish

Orange glow.  Orange window glow.  Orange storefront.  Mint leaves steeped.  Steeping mint leaves.  White building, white shirt, white socks.  I feel so sick.  I feel so small and sick.  I feel like I live here.  He wants to see me later.  Teal umbrellas.  Ocher pots.  Small dog on a red leash.  The tea is warm and good.  I am okay here.

Ne Plus Ultra

In your messages, you seem sure that I will return your call.  I sit at the library and avoid writing, again.  It’s become a theme, a thing, a sure thing.  I'm supposed to say “happy holidays.”  The feeling comes over me like a medicine, no, like a syrup, thick and heavy, holds me down, lethargic, and this hour lasts forever.  I read some girl’s book who tells the reader to get over it, to quit feeling so down, to move on, do something else, and she mentions constellations and it’s clear that this stuff is garbage but she likes to rhyme her words on the ends of lines and I can’t explain to someone why that’s not okay.  I wish I were in a museum alone holding a coffee and interpreting paintings.  I got so thin after he left me, but I felt like myself.  I often sell my clothes so other people can have them, so I can pay for a car wash, so I can eat yellow lentil soup at Little Flower, where the parents don't mind their children’s chairs as they bump into mine. 

Future History

Do you remember when we walked from your house to the diner?  It was the first time I ever “went with the flow.”  We had a reading, and it went well, well enough to make you want to take a walk with me.  I was wearing a big necklace, it weighed on my neck, and my stomach kind of hurt, the way it always sort of hurt back then, a consistent bother, always upset, uneasy.  We walked and I wasn’t wearing the right shoes either, and you were, so you were happy.  You chain-smoked and pointed out landmarks.  I got to see the Checkers parking lot where you passed out and hit a cop, prompting your arrest.  I got to see the park you played basketball, where you made friends with strangers, kids, adults, anyone who wanted to play HORSE.  I saw where you had meetings on Monday nights, I saw where the city puts up Christmas decorations during holiday time and you kissed a girl by the fake presents and then never talked to her again because she was a bitch.  I saw the pet store where the red-eyed mice climbed over each other in over-crowded cages trying to get our attention, or just moving because it felt good to move.  You showed me these places and I listened, let you lead.  That was what you wanted.

Now I drink coffee and orange juice and substitute teach at the college.  I am writing and these kids who are not mine are working on essays that are due today that they haven’t finished, haven’t even started, some of them.  I sit in a black leather chair and watch them work and mostly think about how different the holidays will be this year.  It is good that we are apart and don't talk anymore.  It is good that to each other, we are gone.  One of them just rolled down the shade and it got dark all of a sudden, but the sun is strong, even for November, as it always is in LA, and it made everyone get quiet.  Only two girls are talking, and it is in such a low whisper that it relaxes me, everyone it seems, and so I will let it be.

Subject to Change

I have to quit this job so bad.  It needs to be the next thing I do.  This one girl, she uses different names.  I introduced myself to her once, and she had one name, and now, she introduces herself again with another name.  This girl, she has two names.  And she put both hands on her heart and talked about how lucky she was to be alive.  I put my hands in my apron and feel someone else’s receipt paper.  They clocked in at 12:02pm.  Someone ordered a house red but we were out so they had to give them Merlot, poor suckers.  Discarded wine bottle tin foil.  Pens that don’t work.  I am briefed on my section.  We are out of octopus.  

It was the only thing that happened to me today. 

“Your paradigm gets shattered”

It’s like a geyser. 

“I want you to respond to this; deep pain allows for deep surrender.”

When you live in Los Angeles, you come to terms with meaninglessness. 

“Darling, honey, now, you weren’t crying tears of sadness, no, no, those tears, they were tears of overwhelm.”


(n.) a person who has been or feels displaced, uprooted or displaced from one’s geographical or social environment

I tend to sleep in two parts:

Part I.  You finish the book before we see the movie.  In the car, you turn pages.  I wait for you to finish.  The movie starts soon, and we will miss the previews because you want to know how it ends before it ends.  You say the book is better, on the walk back to the car, and it is here that I begin to fester resentment.  And yes, you took me to the movies, but no, I did not have a good time.

Part II.  It snowed during class and I drove even though I could have taken the bus.  I liked the autonomy of driving myself.  In the parking lot, I listen to a message that makes me sob, burst out into a fit of crying, a tantrum, an explosion, and you don't answer when I try to call you back.  You won’t be here next week, and it’s not because of the snow.   I sit in the car for a long time until someone wants my spot.  The sky is black by the time I get home.


Why am I thinking about what I didn't get? 

I came back here so I could live the life I deserved. 

A contagion of memories that is subject to erupt at any moment.

They asked me to leave due to my abhorrent behavior.

All those hollow, negative feelings.

Social outings are available to me.

I had an agenda of what to do in order to be happy.

You always responded.  You always picked up the rope.

A place I could finish my sentences, a place I could figure out my thoughts.

I was melted; I couldn’t express it.

I was allowed to fall together.

After Image

He says I need to create a gap, a void, for good things to come in.  I need to make room.  The sun is shining in our eyes and we squint at it, hoping it will get smaller or go away and not bother us.

My first boyfriend was Andy Gaffman.  I remember watching Lifesavers explode in his mouth on a camping trip.  We were partnered up; one of us had to chew on candies and the other watched.  He volunteered to chew, so I looked inside his mouth as light sprang forth, a miracle, bright and minty.  The girls on the trip thought it was romantic we shared a moment like that together.  But I didn't like him.  Only a piece of my heart felt something then, a piece that dropped to my stomach because a boy liked me and wanted me.   I had wanted him to be someone else, and that, I thought, was very romantic.

“Reclaiming Your Greatest Self”

I check the weather forecast every four hours.  There is nothing I can do from 2681.5 miles away.  But I check and check and watch the weatherman wave his hand across red band that crosses over my home in real-time news, over and over.  I look up recipes for Chicken Florentine and take my rings on and off and pick at my cuticles and bite my nails and dread work tomorrow and make phone calls and I can’t talk to you.  I take something that will make me tired and it does and I rest on the couch and imagine skies clearing.

I drink yellow Gatorade from a purple straw and set up camp in bed.  I have been here for twelve hours, but who’s counting.  It’s been such a long time since anything made sense, and the email about a potential teaching job seems like a mirage amidst the hot flashes and fever dreams of last night.  Perhaps it is a sliver of God.  I continue work on my short stories, defining an empty chapter with no strands to hold onto.  I wait for an appetite to return.


I slept most of the day and hiked up my electric bill.  I had the AC running, hard.  I don’t want to work tonight and this strawberry mochi tastes like TCBY in Aruba when I was six.  Everyone got drunk for the first time that year and I didn't know what to make of it.  I thought it was a phase.  I just want to know if I got the job already.  I have to leave, walk to work, stay until close, and I don't want to.  I thought it would get easier.  I used to want my days free and now I want the nights back.  I wonder if I intervened too much.  I slept all day; I shouldn’t be tired. 

I get a migraine halfway through my shift and have to pretend it’s nothing; this is just how my face is, this is how I look when I work.  There are so many glasses to polish.  They keep coming in racks, and then the silverware, and then more glasses.  The busser is coked out of his mind and wants to leave by 11:30, but we won’t.  When I finally get in bed around 12:30am, my head is pounding so hard I can’t see.  I put a cold compress over my eyes and all I can think about is seventh grade.  When I was thirteen I was overcome with depression because Austin from my art class didn't love me back.  It made me feel weak and sick.  It overtook me.  I tried to change myself in small ways to make him love me, but he loved someone else and they had their time together and we didn't. 

Being depressed as an adult is another world of pain; a pain that almost doesn't hurt because it sucks so much.  There is nothingness in being a child, a kid, a student, with the illusion of care wrapped around you so tight like a comfortable blanket, warm, promising, hopeful.  As an adult, no one cares if you sit in your apartment all day and eat licorice or whether you ran a mile or whether you bite your cuticles ‘til they burn or whether you smile when you work or work at all.  It’s freeing and terrifying, both, at once.  I think about this as a cold arc of pain rises in my forehead.  I know the pain will pass, but it hurts, endless, in my mind.

When I stayed in Santa Cruz I went to this pizza place that gave away free t-shirts when you bought a slice.  I have no idea where that shirt went.  I loved it so much when I had it.  All we have is our art.  I woke up at 6:00am and the pain was still dull in the front of my face.  I went back to sleep until 9:00am and now it’s 5:00pm and I'm working on submissions.  I think all I can do is keep going, but I don't want to sometimes.  Sometimes I just want the things I love to love me back, and for that to be enough.  I miss that shirt, even though it’s stupid.  I miss it more than I should.

Virtue Signaling

I'm sorry for making you wash the spoon so I could have Cheerios on the way to class.  I'm sorry for going to K’s house and your friend saw us kiss in the driveway and I called you seventeen times from Panera and my soup got cold and I showed up at your house and you pushed me out the door and I understood why but you felt bad so you let me in and told me to go.  I'm sorry for turning away when you tried again in your new apartment and I said I wasn’t ready even though you had cantaloupe for me in the refrigerator.  I'm sorry for the way you listened so good.  I'm sorry the cab was so expensive.  I'm sorry you kept trying and trying and I never told you to stop.  I'm sorry that when we saw Drive, I thought about him all night and when you yelled at me at the Italian place I sat there and took it because I felt like I was no good and I knew we would never be because you held onto things from the past that I had let go of and moved on from and you didn't and I wanted him to call me and he didn't and that made it worse and you told me to eat my dinner so I did but I was empty and had nothing for you then.  I'm sorry about the pan I forgot to clean when we got high and had people over when your parents were away and you took mushrooms and couldn’t sleep so you sat outside until it was light and I drove home and knew there was an ending coming and that pan, I'm sorry it drove your mother crazy all those years.

Frozen Reese’s Cups

You blocked me before I blocked you.  Yes, I was curious.  No, I didn't want you back.  I wanted to see what the baby looked like, if there was still going to be a baby, if the baby had come yet, into the world from somewhere else, heaven- you’d say, because you believe in that now, and you’d say it was meant to be, written, declared, shouted, praised, and no hard feelings, but you had to block me.  The happiest we ever were was when you used to bring me coffee on your morning outings.  You didn't have to work until later in the day, so you went out to buy cigarettes and get yourself a bagel with cream cheese and got me a caramel macchiato and a chocolate donut with sprinkles.  I’d drop fifteen pounds after we separated.  And then you’d come home and I’d be doing my hair or packing my lunch and when I drove to school I was so happy that you had done something for me, for us, and I looked at the coffee in the cup holder and it gave me hope, so much delusional hope, that things would get better.  On Wednesday nights after temple I got sushi and a Coke and a package of Reese’s that I’d freeze until hours after I ate dinner and I’d enjoy it watching TV or standing in the kitchen with one leg straight, one foot perched on the other knee, like a flamingo, and I’d wonder where you were, if you were coming home, if you were staying out because you didn't want to fight or be wrong or have to be there, and sometimes I’d stand on the steps and look for lights, and the chocolate would melt onto my fingers and at least I tried to give myself something sweet.


I think she was more disappointed than I was about not getting the job.  She sounded so sad, like it was her career on the line, her hopes and dreams slipping away because she didn't have the money she needed.  Everything is about that.

I remember counting the register in the morning, before we opened, still drinking my first cup of coffee, the one I drank before me and the other manager went to Starbucks in the mall to get caramel macchiatos, and I got the email, standing there, pouring quarters into their designated space, and he said he didn't want to take on the book, along with some other very nice things about my writing, but the gist was that it wasn’t going to happen, and I had hoped so hard at that moment that it would, I had been hoping so badly up until then, and then, all that hope was gone.

Apple cider vinegar, apple cider beer.  Towels drying, clothes hanging out to dry.  I thought I saw you on the street, and you thought you saw me, but we’re in different cities now, forever, together.


I know of what I speak like the white stuff I did for the first time last year on RJ’s rooftop party before I saw the man of my dreams and we watched fireworks from his roof and he made hamburgers and toasted my bun.  I remember the fourth of July party my mom’s friends threw at the building in Delray and I sat alone on the cushioned longue chair outside while the sun was going down and waited for A to call me back but he didn't.  I took pictures of myself in the mirror with no one to send them to because A didn't love me.

A holiday makes time feel stretched out, like a day can last forever.  Maybe it’s because we remember all the holidays of our lives, each celebratory cake, each firework, and compare them to one another like ex-lovers, trying to figure out if we’ve learned anything, if we now understand how to properly throw a party, be a good guest, or just show up to our own lives and the festivities that they require.

I think about all the people I’ve disappointed.  I think about all the times I could have been nicer, could have enjoyed myself.  On the roof that day, we the high as Georgia pines with gummy bears and Swedish fish and Cheeto puffs and Screwdrivers, felt higher than the fourteenth floor and the girls we met at the dollar store followed us up, up, up and out of the blue my man called me to tell me he was playing golf but he would be by in an hour so I absconded back to my own accommodations post haste.  It’s very strange living this way, in my haphazard spontaneity.  In the Lyft, driving through the mountains back towards North Hollywood, back to the apartment where I walked around until he came because I couldn’t sit still, I had no idea where the money would come from, how I’d survive a week, a month, a year, and all the girls had jobs with paychecks and wore pant suits and had beachy waves and manicured nails and I was trying to write my way out of this world, it was then that I felt like I was in the air, falling.