Molten Glass

When my elderly neighbor Marsha would blow glass in her garage, I would always come over to watch. I was fourteen in the summer and I believed I could see my future and the stars and all things beautiful within her glass. She would blow many colored pieces and then set them out to dry in the corner of her scorching garage, and they were like slow-oozing rainbows in the furnace– candy that was too powerful and too sweet to touch. It would burn off your tongue if you tried.

I spent every afternoon watching her because I had no friends and could not waste a beautiful day inside. I believed it was a sin to God to stay indoors on a sunny, temperate day. I would paint my toes bright candy colors to mimic the colors of her glass sculptures as they came out hot and glistening. I would long to touch the molten shapes.

But Marsha would push me back and say, “Not if you want to be a lady, Gwen. Ladies have fingerprints and the skin of porcelain. You’ll burn yourself.”

“So give me the gloves,” I said. “I won’t drop it.”

But Marsha would only shake her head and turn her body so it blocked my view of the furnace.

For my fifteenth birthday my parents finally paid for me to take glass-blowing classes at the local art museum. Tuesday nights I would go and learn about blowing techniques and furnace temperatures from a potbellied man that always seemed to have a cold, which confused me because the room was always hot. There were two other students, both guys about my age, which further confused me because I didn’t think guys would care about the making of delicate things. I soon realized I was wrong about that.

My favorite part about the whole process was in the very beginning, when I dipped my blowpipe into the pool of molten glass in the furnace. I would spend more time than I needed at the mouth of the burning pit, stirring my blowpipe around in the glass, watching it turn in on itself while my face became slick with sweat.

One time I spent ten minutes gathering glass in the furnace, and one of the other students, Kurt, came up behind me and asked if I needed help.

I told him that I was fine, but he stayed there, watching me like I had been watching the flowering shapes of glass. I looked down at myself, sweating through my t-shirt and shorts, lit by the unnatural red of the furnace fire, and I could see the similarity. It was then that I was grateful to Marsha for her first lesson.

I gave him a look that said buzz off, and he turned around and sulked back to his station.

I watched him go. “Don’t touch,” I muttered to myself, smiling. “You will burn yourself.” Then I went back to pushing and molding the molten glass with my rod, the fire so hot my eyes burned from it.

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Naked

Claire walked around her apartment naked simply because she didn’t care. Cooking, cleaning, reading– all naked. She was on the ninth floor and left the windows open. She could have a hundred people watching her every day, a creep could have started recording her movements and posting it on the internet. Probably did. But none of it mattered to her. So what.

She thought she’d never see any of them in real life. A thousand people could watch her doing the most private thing and it would make no difference to her because they were all strangers. Plenty of days she would go out on her balcony and look down at the world, waving to tourists who happened to notice, and she’d smile and think, “Yeah, get a load of this. Here’s New York for you. We don’t give a fuck.”

But then one day somebody recognized her in the grocery store. She was in the dairy aisle picking up milk and lunch meat when a man with dark eyes and blonde hair put a hand on her arm and said, “Hey. You’re the woman on the ninth floor.”

She just looked at him.

“It’s you. I’m sure it’s you. I see you all the time,” he said.

Claire pulled her arm from his grasp. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, boredom dripping from her voice. But when she got home and put her groceries away, she left her clothes on until she went to bed.

The next morning she woke with the sun on her back. She sat up, realized she was late for work, and ran around her apartment in a flurry. When she was almost out the door, she realized she forgot her coffee mug on the kitchen table. She ran back to get it, but when she got to the kitchen she stopped and walked up to the window. She looked out at the city, at the mass of people and buildings spread out before her.

In the building directly across from her, a naked man stood in a window holding up a neon orange sign that said: I SEE YOU. He had blonde hair and was smiling. For a moment she was caught in his gaze, a line that tethered her to him in a sea of faces, and she smiled back across the vast cavern between them. Then she took a sip of her coffee, turned around, and went out the door.

Indians

Down there by the river is where all the boys from 801 West End would play “Indians.” We used to play the good old “Cowboys and Indians,” but one of the older boys, Lucas, had an unhealthy obsession with Indians (he had a collection of arrowheads and pointy sticks) and convinced us that they were cooler than cowboys because they could peel the skin off people’s heads. So no one wanted to be a cowboy, and it turned into just “Indians.”

That bench is where the homeless guy was sleeping when we decided to rob him. It was a bright, sunny Saturday and we had nothing better to do. Whose idea was it to take the man’s shoe? Victoria’s, of course. She was the only girl in the group, and had earned her reputation as one of the boys many times over.

We all usually met in this field at around noon, or whenever our mothers got tired of us watching cartoons and kicked us out of our apartments. But on this day, no one was in the field. Instead they were huddled in a circle on the sidewalk, bending half-over and whispering in each other’s ears. Shit, something’s up, I thought as I jogged over to them. Secretly I wanted to say the word out loud just to see the look on Vicky’s face.

I was thinking about how to work the word into a sentence (Hey what shit’s up you guys?) when Vic locked eyes with me and said in voice that made everyone else quit their whispers: “We have an enemy in our territory.”

“Shit,” I said. (It was a testament to the seriousness of the group that no one reacted to the word.)

“Yeah,” she said, “We must eliminate him.”

It was lucky for us that he was out cold and didn’t stir a bit when Lucas pulled off his shoe and we high-tailed it down to the river. We were also lucky when we stole his other shoe the next day (it was me that time). One of the boys got daring and jumped on the man’s shopping cart and rolled away with it. We whooped, pressing our hands to our mouth over and over like the victorious Indians we were, and then we donned the various grungy clothes and threw his plastic bottles at passerby in celebration.

Lucas silenced us soon enough though, saying that he wasn’t truly defeated until we had scalped him. He came back the next day with a pocket knife, and it was Vicky’s idea to chop his long hair off. She knelt at the edge of the bench while we watched, slowly sawing at his hair till there was a pile of it below the bench slats. He smelt so bad that she had to cover her nose the whole time, which made for slow going. But when she was finished, we each took a lock to keep in our pockets, as a symbol of our bravery.

Tuesday though, luck wasn’t on our side. There were three policemen standing around him. We looked on, pinching the locks of hair between our fingers, ready to toss them away, but it turned out we weren’t in trouble. He was just dead. He had been all along. Go figure.

Fishing

My brother used to go down to the river and fish with a stick and a dirty sock every weekend.

When he would get back I would ask him what he caught, and he always replied,

“The biggest fish you ever saw.”

“So why didn’t you bring it home?” I would ask him.

“Because it promised me that if I threw it back, I wouldn’t be able to catch it ever again.”

“That’s what it said?”

“Yup.” My brother would then amble off to his room, leaving me to ponder the value of a fish who could speak well enough to bargain for his freedom.

One day my brother came back from the river without his wooden pole. He wouldn’t explain to me what had happened; instead he ran to his room, tight-lipped. The next morning we found that he had packed a suitcase and left in the night.

I went down to the river, searching for the spot he had always described, where the piles were perfectly spaced for a man to lean on one and use its neighbor as a footrest. But I did not find such a spot. There were only gray gravel yards and rotting warehouses.

Seven months later though, we found where he had really been going. Or should I say it found us? On our doorstep was a bundle with a newborn baby inside and a note that read, “Be careful what you fish for, asshole.”

I wouldn’t say I was surprised that I never saw my brother again.

Even if it Didn’t Last Forever

You stare up at the small orange globe hanging from the branch. It is shiny and bright, perfectly round. The first you have seen this season. You are not yet tall enough to reach it, so you walk under it, into the shade of the tree, and pull the branch down until the heavy orange hangs within your reach. When you stretch out your hand though, you cannot reach the orange without letting go of the branch. You shake the branch violently in hopes of dislodging the fruit, but it is young and strong and holds fast to its lifeline.

At that moment your father comes up and takes a hold of the orange in one hand and the stem in the other. He rips the orange free, a bit of the skin still left on the stem. In the sunlight you can see mist floating in the air from the separation, and the scent drifts to you. You let go of the branch and it swings up to hit your father in the face. He laughs, which must mean he is in a good mood. You come out from under the tree.

“Thanks, Pa!” you say. You take the orange from his hand and smell the new hole at the top of the fruit. Seeing all the segments underneath the skin is like seeing the ripped corner of a wrapped package. You are tempted to stick your finger in the natural hole that forms where all the segments meet at the top.

“That is quite a prize you’ve got there,” your father says as he crouches down to your level. “What are you going to do with it? Eat it?”

You shake your head.

“No? But is must be so juicy and perfect.”

“I am going to give it to Mama,” you say.

You waddle over on your three-year-old legs to where your mother sits on the patio smoking and listening to the Beatles on the radio.

You hold out your prize and run into her legs, exclaiming what you brought for her. She sets her cigarette down and lifts you into her lap for a hug, then turns you around and lets you make a mess of peeling the orange for her.

Your father has turned his chair away from the table and sits in it facing the yard, but he is looking at you. When you think you have peeled the orange, you hold up the pulpy chunk proudly.

“Would you look at that, Paula.” he says, “We have a natural orange-peeler on our hands.”

“We sure do,” agrees your mother. She leans down to kiss your cheek from behind. “Our little boy is getting to be all grown up.”

“This calls for a celebration,” your father says. He gets up and returns with three plates, then pulls up a third chair. “For you,” he says, and then makes a flourish. Your mother lifts you into the chair. Together you split the orange into three parts and eat it. Everybody’s faces and fingers are sticky, and everybody gives each other sticky kisses. You remember your father’s smile and the color of your mother’s sunglasses, the feel of the orange pulp in your teeth, and the cold metal of the seat under your pudgy legs.

And that is about the only happy, normal memory you have of your father. After that it is sickness, cold beds, smells of vomit, and your mother’s tear-streaked face.

An orange is a memory to you, a happy memory that you are grateful to have. People look at you and say how tragic you had it, that you didn’t deserve to lose your father so young, but you reckon that that’s life. People have had it much worse than you. And that’s why you don’t hate oranges. You love them actually, for their sticky-sweet tartness, the pulp they leave in your teeth, and the occasional bitter seed you can bite into if you are not careful. You are glad to have had something so precious, even if it didn’t last forever.

The Day After

The day after Marla finds out that her older sister is engaged, she has a dream that Cecilia is eaten by a falling star.

They are collecting stray peacock feathers in the orange grove like old times, except that the oranges are glowing on the trees like fireballs. There is no sun, so everything is cast in an eerie orange light from the glowing fruit.

‘Look at this one!’ Cecilia calls out to Marla, and then she reaches down and picks up the largest peacock feather Marla has ever seen. She starts walking toward Marla, but then she stops when she feels a tug and realizes that the end of the peacock feather is tied to a string.

Marla feels she knows something bad is going to happen, so she holds out her hand and tells Cecilia to stop, but Cecilia doesn’t hear her and she pulls on the string.

The world is ripped away and Cecilia and Marla are spinning and holding onto each other by the ends of the huge peacock feather. They are in space and the stars are streaking by in a way that makes Marla dizzy. She looks at her sister and tells her not to let go, but then an orange ball of light comes up and hits Cecilia on the cheek. She lets go of the feather and Marla watches as Cecilia tumbles into the crooked-toothed mouth of a giant orange-and-red mottled star.

The star’s eyes are green like poison and they are so bright that Marla can’t look at them.

‘Mine now,’ it says to her in a deep, raspy voice like an old smoker. Then it laughs as Marla pukes her guts into space.

 

She wakes up before the sun rises and joins her sister in bed.

‘Not now,’ Cecilia says to her, but then she rolls over so Marla can climb in. Marla watches her sister’s face as the room turns from black and white to blue in the morning light.

‘Do you really love him?’ she asks her sister.

‘Mmmm,’ says Cecilia. Her eyes are still closed.

‘It’s okay. You can tell me,’ says Marla. ‘I won’t tell anyone.’

Cecilia opens her eyes to slits and lets the corner of her mouth come up in a smile.

‘Yes, I really do,’ she says.

Marla lies back down in bed and puts her head on her sister’s shoulder. She plays with the ends of Cecilia’s curly hair, which she remembers she used to suck on when she was a baby.

Marla thinks about what it will be like at home with her sister gone. She wonders who will help her with her math homework and who will take her to the market on Saturdays to sell peacock feathers. Surely, it won’t be her parents, what with the work to be done around the grove.

 

When the sun rises and Marla can hear her mother making breakfast downstairs, she tickles Cecilia’s neck and whispers in her ear to wake up. Cecilia doesn’t move and Marla panics, thinking she is dead, but then Cecilia jumps up and shouts, ‘Tickle monster!’

She pins Marla down and tickles her until she screams from the pain of it. Then Cecilia rolls off the bed and throws open the curtains. She opens the window and the scent of ripe, ready-to-be-harvested oranges drifts into the room.

Cecilia turns to Marla, who is watching her sister from the bed, and asks her what they would like to do today. Marla gets up and goes to the window. It is sunny and the clouds look like bulbous white skyscrapers. She wonders how many more days like this she will get with her sister.

‘Let’s do something different,’ Marla says. ‘Something new.’

Then she takes Cecilia’s hand and leads her out of the room.

First Flight

“Would you like a pear?”

I jumped in my seat and turned to see a black guy sitting next to me. He wore a business suit and his head was shaved. He was looking at me as he slid a briefcase under the seat in front of him.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“A pear. I brought three from home, but I could only eat two of them, so now I’m stuck carrying this one around. Would you like it? I’m sick of pears.”

He had a brown paper bag in his lap. He picked it up and held it out to me. I took it, hesitatingly. I’d never actually tried a pear, but I guess today was a day for firsts.

“Does this happen often?” I asked. “Strangers handing strangers food on a plane?”

The man laughed. 

“You know, In all my flying experiences, no stranger has ever offered me anything except the bag of pretzels or peanuts that the airline gives us.” he said. “So I guess not, no.”

“How many times have you flown?” I asked.

He paused and looked up at the personal reading lights and flight attendant buttons above our heads.

“I’ve lost count,” he said. “Let’s just say that I’ve flown about three to four times a month for the past eight years. You do the math.”

I mentally calculated about four hundred flights, and then took a second to appreciate the number. “This is my first time flying,” I answered.

“Well then, In that case,” He held his hand toward me, “I am honored to accompany you on your first journey through the air. My name is Dave.”

I returned his handshake. “I’m Michelle. Nice to meet you, Dave,” I said. We exchanged a smile, and then I turned to look out at the morning dew that was sliding down the small oval window. I was sitting near the back of the plane, so I could see workers loading the plane with luggage.

“So, Ms. Michelle, what brings you out here on this fine May morning to experience the magic of flight?” said Dave.

I continued to look out the window at the little worker bees. “I am going to see my son,” I answered. “He is getting married.”

“Well a mighty congratulations to you. I’d say that was a worthy occasion to break in your flying legs. It’s not like a rocking boat, per say, but it does take some getting used to,” He chuckled at his small joke.

I nodded and looked down at the brown paper bag in my lap. Yes, I thought. Today was a day for firsts.

When Life Gets You Down

Yesterday I was coming home from work when I found a spider on my door handle. I almost didn’t see it.

But when I did it was when my hand was close, like almost touching it and the door handle. So I threw my keys at the spider in surprise, and they clattered against the handle and then the door and then the ground. The spider fell next to the keys, its legs brown and twitching in the air.

And so as I was reaching to get the keys, I saw that the spider’s abdomen was crushed, and it was still alive. It was pretty gruesome actually. I gagged as I swept it off my doorstep with a leaf.

But when I went inside to kiss my husband hello and make myself chamomile tea, I got to thinking, ‘God, how many people would look at this spider and not give a shit?’

I wondered if there were more spiders or people in the world, and what it all really meant, our pain. How could I value the pain of one species over another?

Later that night, I went out to my doorstep and retrieved the crushed spider. I put it in a stray cardboard jewelry box and buried it next to my dog Lars and my unborn child from two years ago. I knelt in the dirt and told God that I understood why he would not acknowledge my pain. But then I prayed twice as hard for him to listen to me anyway.

The Longest Voicemail in History

“Hey sis, it’s me, Marla. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately, and about what you said on the phone the other day. Now that I’ve been thinking about it, it makes me—well, it’s sitting pretty heavy. I’m sad that you feel that way.

I just wanted you to know that, you know, good things happen here too, and you know, we all miss you: Dad, Mom, and I. We really do want you here.

Oh, and I just have to tell you—the most amazing thing happened the other day!

Now I know you may not believe me, because well let’s face it, you are the older, wiser one that is always right, but seriously I can’t lie to you about this one because the whole town saw it.

So, get this—a star fell from the sky. No joke. You can ask anyone. I think the Sentinel even wrote a story about it.

Anyway, it happened a few days ago, during the meteor show. I was outside on the roof, sitting on our old spotty blanket that we used to keep under the eve of my dormer, you know, and Mom and Dad had gone to bed—it was around three a.m. I think—and the brunt of the shower had calmed down.

I was just chilling out there, thinking about things, about you mainly, and about Corey, which I’ve decided that he’s not really that into me because I saw him in the halls the other day and he didn’t even say ‘Hi’ when I passed him so really it was all just a fluke, but then—ah sorry off topic—then it was like there was this one huge bright streak that I swear burned my retinas.

I closed my eyes for a second and rubbed them to get rid of the spot, and when I opened them I was thinking at first that the spot in my eyes had actually gotten bigger, but then I realized that the star was still streaking across the sky—but then it was falling, and at first I was like ‘what the hell kind of dream is this?’ but then it just kept coming, and getting bigger, and it was happening so fast that I didn’t even realize until it had already fallen that it was right there in the Roberson’s yard—like right there—and it could have hit me.

But you know, I don’t even think I was thinking that at the time, because you know what? Luke was in the yard. And you know what he did? He caught it. He caught the flipping falling star.

I swear, sis, I can’t make this stuff up.

At this point I can’t even tell you what I was thinking– I don’t even think any of the usual curse words were running through my head. I think my mind was just kind of like beep, like you know, when a heart monitor goes blank after somebody isn’t breathing anymore, and I couldn’t pass a single thought through my mind. I just watched, eyes boggling and buckets of drool pouring out my mouth I’m sure, as he lifted the star, which was still glowing a dull red—like mom’s glass right when she takes it out of the kiln—and ate it.

I saw the glowing, pulsing—thing, star, whatever—slide down his throat, down the ribs of his esophagus, and into his belly. The night was late and it had just rained so it was like, completely silent except for the occasional dripping from the trees.

Luke turned around and went back inside and that was that, and if my eyes hadn’t been half-blind, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Now I know you must be thinking that I should have called out to him, asked him what the hell he was doing, but I just couldn’t. It was like how we always wondered what we would do if someone broke into our house, how we would say that we would grab this and that and lock the door and call the police you know? But then, when something really huge like that happens, I don’t think we’d really be able to do anything. I mean, this big thing was happening right in front of me and I didn’t do anything.

It was like someone had turned off the switch to the real world, like ‘jokes, you aren’t a real person and you are now in the Matrix and we just pulled the plug on your body ha ha.’

You know? I wonder if you felt that way when you got in that accident with Luke last year. I always meant to ask you about that, whose fault it really was, or like what the other car looked like, but I was afraid of what you would say. I’m sorry now that I didn’t ask. I would like to know now, if you would tell me.

Anyway, I was just sitting there on the roof, a puddle of spittle making the blanket all soggy, when twenty minutes later a car came down the cul-de-sac, driving slowly, and then it turned around and was gone. And then there was another car a few minutes later, and then another car came and parked in the Jacobson’s driveway. The people got out and wandered around for a bit, but they didn’t really come by our house so I couldn’t hear what they had to say.

But, you know, I bet they were looking for the star.

Okay sorry I guess that’s kind of the end of the story and I didn’t mean to tell you this all on a message but as you probably see, I’ve called you like three times already and I just have to talk to someone about this. I mean, I know I can probably just go to Mom or Dad and they may or may not believe me but at least they would listen. But I just felt—after our conversation—that you would like to know. I just want you to know that I want you to know. And that I miss you.

And, well, I guess it hasn’t really cut me off yet, which I find surprising, but whatever I guess that isn’t the end of the story.

The end of the story is that there isn’t one.

The next day there were some official people in the neighborhood, going from door to door asking if anybody had seen the star. I just stayed in my room when they came by. I don’t think I could hold something like that in. I mean they looked so official, with their suits and badges, I just think I would go all fish-faced and they would cart me away for electroshock therapy or something. You know?

I wonder who was home next door. I wonder if they all know about Luke, whatever he is, if they are all like that. I wonder if… I mean, you used to spend all your time over there. Did you ever notice anything weird? Like them having extra toes or being glow-in-the-dark when they sleep or having light shine out of their eyes or something? I just wish I knew more.

I just wish you were here.

Anyway, after the suits had left some reporters came through, a man and a woman armed with a notepad and camera. From what I heard from mom and dad over dinner—I just stayed in my room all day on the window seat—apparently a lot of people got photos of the meteor as it was descending to Earth. I thought it was weird because it was like—something that was so private to me and I guess Luke. And then, it was like, a phenomenon to the rest of the world. Everybody saw it, but they didn’t.

You should go look up pictures. There were some really cool ones, like somebody got one from up on a hill where it was like this huge green streak over our neighborhood. I think that was how they located where it should have landed.

To me though, it was really only that image of Luke, swallowing molten glass, nothing but rain dripping in our quiet suburban paradise. And, can you believe it? Nobody could figure out what happened.

The reporters eventually left because they couldn’t like, take a picture of anything besides some old Victorian and ranch-style houses with unexciting paint colors. There was no point of impact after all.

And so now it has been reduced to just that weird thing that happened last week, only a few days ago, and people are already talking about something new in school– like apparently Justin Beiber cut his hair or something– and I can’t help feel that, you know, more things like this happen all the time, and nobody really cares. I mean, the world is a strange place, right? Why question? Why ask anybody anything? Because nobody really knows the answers.

And that just makes me think of you again. I’m sorry that you have to listen to this, all my word vomit. You probably won’t understand the half of it. I just wish– I just wish you would call me, and maybe listen. I’m sorry I never asked you about things before.

Aw man. I can’t believe I’m leaving this all on your answering machine. How it is that when people get a job and move to a big city they just don’t have time anymore? They are like, ‘adult,’ and have bigger things to do in life besides talk to their family. I hope you don’t feel that way. I know that yeah, you may have felt a bit underappreciated, but now I just want you to know that you were not. We all really think that you are a wonderful person and we care about you. Really.

I want to hear about that. About your life now. Will you call me back? I’ll listen whatever you have to say. I swear.”

Two Truths, Ten Thousand Lies

Today I burned a spatula, the only spatula that I owned. I was cooking rice (really just boiling the water) while I was on the phone with my brother discussing the finer points of the salinity of a salt-water aquarium (he was just starting an aquarium business out of his home).

I walked out of the room, pacing on the back porch, watching the fireflies run themselves into the screen, and then I heard the beeping of the smoke detector which I did not yet know was the smoke detector because I had never before burned anything.

I ran inside, still with my brother on the phone (I had him on my headset) and into a cloud of smoke that was bright orange. The spatula I owned was green plastic, so I was doubly confused because I did not yet know that the spatula was even burning until I reached the stove and saw a puddle of goo on the burner next to the pot with the water.

Too late, I realized I had turned on the wrong burner and the spatula had been resting on the stove. I went to turn the burner off, but by then I had a good face-full of orange smoke so as I was reaching my hand started to tilt sideways and I missed the dial completely. I tried again and missed, and then tried again and missed.

I laughed, and then I realized my brother had been trying to get my attention. “Candace if you don’t say anything I’m calling the police and sending them to your house!” He was saying. So paranoid, always paranoid he was.

“If you do, then I will hug you until you die,” I said, and then laughed at my wittiness.

“Seriously, what is going on?”

“Oh, just the spatula I think melted and now my face is too,” I said because I thought it was true. Really though, I reached up and could feel my nose sliding down along the cleft of my lips, as if it were a track to steer my nose into my mouth. My tongue could touch my left nostril and it had never been able to do that before.

I laughed.

“No lie,” I said. “Come over and see for yourself.”

And so, thirty minutes later, when the smoke had dispersed into a haze that made my kitchen and living room look as if they were lit by a sandstorm, my brother showed up at the door and I let him in.

He started laughing immediately and then held a hand over his mouth. He took a picture with his phone and turned it around to me. It looked like my nose had lowered about half an inch on my face.

“I think it looks better, actually,” I said. He nodded and then asked me what it was I had been cooking. I told him I was making some rice to go with the leftover lime chicken I had made two days ago. I invited him to stay for dinner.

He looked at the orange tinge of the room, which before had been painted blue with teak wood accents.

“Actually I think we should go to the Lotus Room,” he said, which was our go-to restaurant when we were kids, and before… before. It was Thai that you couldn’t beat.

I didn’t want to go out at all, because I had finished making the rice for my chicken and had cleaned up the spatula goo and had a lot of work to do tonight, mainly cleaning, and I had to be up early for work in the morning (I was an online teacher of English).

But as I told him all these things he just shrugged and opened the door, letting the orange dust get sucked out of the doorway like a vacuum in space.

“That’s not really a good enough excuse. It’s just dinner, Candace.”

He cocked his head to the side.

“You really do look better with your nose lower like that. I didn’t realize before how high it was, but now it looks just right.”

He smiled, as if he knew exactly what he was doing.

And so, with trembling fingers and a new(ish) face, I took his hand and he pulled me across the threshold of my house.

So simple, but that was really how I left my house for the first time in two years.

It makes me realize that I need to learn to make more mistakes.