in which i dip my toes in the water

Compartmentalizing your emotions is not unlike storing leftovers.

You put them in a Tupperware, throw the thing in the fridge and forget about it. Time passes. It gets pushed back, behind the milk. Then one day, when you’re trying to make room for something else, you come across it and toss it to the back of the bottom shelf without even thinking about what’s in it. More time passes and you decide to clean out your fridge. You come across the container again, only this time you actually open it. What’s inside is unrecognizable. And smelly. So you wrinkle up your nose and throw it away for real this time, without a moment’s thought. And you do this in spite of the fact that when you first put it in the Tupperware, you were certain it was something worth saving.


night vision

That day, the day Gregory and I forgot that the sun sets, we had already known each other for years. We were both sophomores. We were both 19. We were both home for October break. And we both owned hiking boots. Weeks earlier I had promised him – over email – that I would show him Pine Meadow Lake, the path to which was my favorite hiking trail. Without a doubt, I had assured him, it would make all the so-called hiking he’d done down in Jersey look like candy-striping.

As always, I heard Gregory’s truck a full four minutes before he actually pulled into my driveway. I stayed in my bedroom, perched on the stool in front of my mirror, eyes closed, hands in the air, going over and over a particularly difficult passage in my latest piano piece. I called this phantom piano. And yeah, I looked pretty silly, perched on that stool, back ramrod straight, hands hard at work over an imaginary piano. Not to mention the imaginary oranges in my palms… But it worked. And it passed the time. Especially when I was nervous. Not that Gregory made me nervous. 

I heard his door slam. I stood. I tucked my hair behind my ears. I slapped myself on the ass and bolted down the stairs, skipping the last six steps entirely and landing squarely on my feet, knees slightly bent, hands outstretched, level with my hips, palms down. For balance. Naturally. 

Through the living room window I glimpsed the bike rack on the roof of his truck. Next to the window, in her rocking chair, sat my grandmother. Normally I would have met her eyes. Normally I would have stopped to chat, to say goodbye and kiss her cheek. But that day I didn’t stop, I didn’t even slow, because I was not about to give her an opportunity to start her Gregory-as-Adonis-isn’t-he-just-scrumptious-and-why-isn’t-he-your-beau spiel. I mean, seriously. She used those words. Adonis! Scrumptious! Beau! I was mortified and blush blush blushing at the mere memory.

I shouted in the general direction of the kitchen, “Bye, Mom! See you later, I won’t be home for dinner I don’t think, I have my cell phone, I love you, byyyyyeeeee”. And I slammed the door behind me. 

Three hours later found us three quarters of the way up the trail. We walked quickly, but I kept stopping. I pointed out rocks. (“Hey, look, dolerite, just like the Palisades!”) I identified plants. (“Jack-in-the-pulpit, something triphyllium? I can’t remember the first word, but see how the thing pops up? Like, how cute is that?) And of course I had to show him the exact spot where my little brother vomited after eating a rancid peanut butter sandwich. I could hardly, in fact, stop myself from talking. Talking? No. It was more like narrating. Like he was blind and I had to describe for him every single detail, so that he could see in his mind as clearly as I could see with my eyes. 

Throughout my monologue, Gregory just nodded and smiled. Sometimes he asked questions. Sometimes he stared off into the forest to our right, or the mountain stream to our left. But mostly he just looked straight at me, silent and intent, focusing (I hoped) on the words that tumbled from my mouth. 

And tumble they did. 

When at last we reached the end of the trail it was after six o’clock. We sat on a flat rock the size of a basketball court, facing the lake from above. Evergreen trees cast their shadowpuppets on the water. The air was crisp and clean like autumn, like apples and bonfires and Halloween costumes. A hawk flew lazily over our heads, then disappeared over the distant canopy of forest. I wondered how deep the lake was. I wondered if I’d ever have the courage to swim in it. I wondered why Gregory and I were the only people up there. 

I had finally, thank you universe, lost the compulsion to talk. But my hands were restless, so I got an apple out of my backpack and focused every ounce of my concentration on removing the peel in one long, interrupted spiral of red. I thought about Gregory’s hair, which was thick and black and wavy and had grown to reach his shoulders since I’d seen him last. I thought about the still-pink scar that lay across the knuckles of his left hand, and how I knew without asking that he had gotten it while crashing down some mountain on his bike. I thought about our silence, the fact that we were sitting there, me with my apple, he gazing out over the lake, both of us cross-legged, both of us content to say nothing, to sit quietly together in the same space. 

And then he spoke. “Zoie? Babe? I don’t know if you noticed this, but the sun is setting.”

I looked up. I looked at the lake. I looked at the sky. Then I looked at him, and I suddenly realized what I should have known from the very beginning. That we had started our hike too late in the day, and that the price we would pay for witnessing this symphony of a sunset was walking back down through the woods in the dark. 

“Listen,” he said. “Confession? I’ve been here before. On my bike. I’ve done this trail at least four hundred times. Never in the dark, but I have it memorized. Muscle memory. I know where all the roots big enough to trip over are. I know the forks. I know the trees. I know the rocks and I know the stream and I know where the path ends and the forest takes over. Zoie. Look at me. No, look at me. Do you trust me?”

I knew he didn’t exaggerate. If he said he knew the trail, he knew the trail. Except…

“But.. ?”

“But why did I tell you I’d never been here? Because I wanted you to show it to me. Because I wanted to listen to you and your endless rambling descriptions and random facts. And because I wanted to be alone with you. OK? We don’t have time to talk about this right now. Right now, you have to give me your hand, close your eyes, and trust me to guide you. And then? Then you have to run. Yes, run. The faster the better.” 

I almost refused. I almost demanded we stay up at the lake overnight. I almost told him he was batshit crazy and he could screw himself if he thought I was going to go running through the woods in the dark. But I didn’t. I nodded. I stood next to him. I filled my lungs. I took his hand. He laced his fingers through mine. I closed my eyes. And we ran.


(This story was originally published here. Click the link for a full explanation of the project.)

the pisces: mr. tambourine man

mr tambourine man the pisces

the children’s museum of indianapolis

indy 1

Have you ever been to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis? It’s one of my favorite places in the world. I loved it as a kid, and loved it even more as a parent.

indy 2

my post-party face

Photo 159I took this photo on the Fourth of July, right after I got home from a party. I’m posting it because… well… I don’t know. Why am I posting it?

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