Month: December 2013

For Broken People

I’m walking along, slouching with my hands in my sweatshirt pocket, when I see the couch. It’s a nubby brown couch just off the sidewalk, in the front of someone’s yard. For Broken People, the sign on it reads. I sink into a cushion and stare out at the road.

A few minutes later, a man walks by. He holds himself tall with perfect posture, but I can see the red bags under his eyes and the wet spot on his sleeve. I swing my legs to the side so he can read the sign on the front of the couch. He looks at the couch, swings his head forward, and, seeming to lack the impetus needed to walk, resigns, lets his shoulders sag, and sits on the other end of the couch.

We don’t make eye contact, but we don’t really need to. There is no tension between us, just the mutual understanding of needing a seat, somehow both in the needing-a-seat-on-a-crowded-subway sense in which you don’t question the people next to you and the way you don’t question the person in line next to you in a hospital.

A woman walks by next. Well, stomps. Her business-sensible, gold-toed flats shake the feeble cement sidewalk below her and her lipstick is red and seems sharp. She stares ahead with a frightening intensity, but whips around when she sees the couch. Taking a seat in between us, she lets out a rattling sigh and leans backwards. I can feel the heat start radiating off of her. She starts to cool off a bit.

When you walk by, you make a special effort to look forward and avoid eye contact with me. Nonetheless, you stop. You take a glance at the couch, pretending to check first your watch, then the house number of the couch’s respective house. For a second, I hope you’ll sit down. But you train your eyes forward and keep walking.

A cool gust from the gray fall sky carries a couple yellow-and-brown leaves in a swirl past our feet. Part of me was hoping you would sit, and by “part” I mean quite a bit. A little old man in a tattered jacket and newsboy cap sits down beside us, and a scraggly girl of about twelve staring at the black toes of her sneakers. The couch doesn’t seem to run out of room. We’re joined next by a stocky, athletic-looking young man with a blonde crew cut, and a lady with soulful brown eyes in a black restaurant apron.

The street-sign creaks a little in the wind, but it’s not that cold out from my seat on the couch. I see a body emerge from behind the hedge on the street corner. It’s you. You look take another look at the couch and-


Writer’s Block

I want to write about the time I was bold and courageous or the time I was tender or the time I was a burnout junkie with no story at all. I want to write about the time I had long willowy legs and an elegant face with big warm eyes. The time I ran down the road in the night, a streak lit burnt orange in the black by streetlamps and stars, unbuttoned coat billowing behind me, running towards someone or maybe away and taking everything in, not just every sharp breath insular to myself but everything around me, every brick in the walls and every gritty brick corner of the cobblestone sidewalk or the smoothness of the tar road. I want to write about the time I was in a room full of people and felt everyone, connected and warm, or, better, the time I was with one person and felt that person was everyone and they felt it back.

Instead, I’m going to have to write about the times I’ve had. Like the time I got jammed in the plastic sliding door of the train. Or all the times I sat half-awake on the edge of the couch as we all just talked and laughed. Or the way snow looks when it gleams and sparkles under the midday sun or the way water catches light or the way eyes dart down when their owner has something to say that he doesn’t want to express or the soft downy coat under the smooth, otterlike outer coat of many midsized dogs. Or what it’s like to be anxious to show someone a story or play someone a song and how even if they don’t feel it they’ll still smile and come to dinner. Or what it’s like to sit next to someone on the train and find that they know my favorite things and will talk about them of their own accord, or, better, can sit there saying nothing at all and maybe I can just glance at them sideways a few times and feel warm.

I’m going to write about the time I ran down the street with my coat buttoned up, every sharp breath insular to me, to get to your building faster. There is burnt orange light above me, but the stars are dim in the city and I can’t feel the road’s texture under the cork bottoms of my shoes. That’s all right though, because there’s an odd comfort in how the air in your stairwell’s smell is a musty-clean sort of familiar, a combination of paint and dust and paper. There’s comfort, even, in the painfully bland eggshell walls, especially in the way the people inside crumble far less easily than they feel they will. I sit down on the couch, slide my feet out of my boots and cross them beneath me on the cushion, and pull out my notebook and pen.

Love On Top

Hi! Haven’t written in awhile (cricket noises), just slammed this out and any ideas/constructive criticism for a second draft would be fantastic (will definitely update/work on)


Killing time while studying for finals, I noticed that a friend of mine had tweeted that “womanhood sucks” because, while listening to “Love On Top,” she realized she would never be as perfect as Beyoncé.

I feel like there’s this weird dichotomy inherent to being female in the 21st century where, since we’re no longer expected to be silent housewives, we’re expected to be everything- that just because we can be strong and beautiful and “successful” in the financial, societal sense we suddenly are placed under this immense pressure where it’s no longer even that we can be successful, but that we have to be the whole package to be feminists and fully take advantage of the freedoms our foremothers fought to give us. Basically, we have to do what Beyoncé did a few days ago: we each have to be a successful businesswoman who, without promotions or help, makes millions off of her own work that she appears plastered all over, a glowing, perfect supermodel, while still being married and raising a child.

I am currently working towards an English degree at a liberal arts college and intend to join the workforce once I graduate, either in publishing or teaching (I think). Sometimes, though, since I’m not on the track towards med or law school or anything with a guarantee of money or even a normal grad program, I get this crippling fear that whatever I’m doing doesn’t really matter, because no one will ever want to read anything I write or think my opinions are intelligent enough to influence young minds or literary thought. That my parents will begrudgingly (but lovingly) take me back in, and I’ll never find a way to really leave. However, the person I talk to fairly often when this sort of thing bothers me makes a big difference: she was a stay-home mom.

After college, my mother worked as an artist and in communications at several newspapers and hospitals, while also supporting her med-school husband both financially and emotionally. Moving away from her dream job at the Star Tribune to stay with my dad, my mom spent time in Portland, OR, and the couple finally settled in Duluth, MN, just before I was born. Did my mom instantly seek a job? To my knowledge, no, seeing as she decided to spend her days pushing me in a stroller as she trained for marathons, taking me for walks outside and playing stuffed-animal games, teaching me to read out of hand-drawn books, and raising me with the love and support that has made me strive to be strong and confident and disciplined and kind, and brought me to this dorm-room desk far from home where I sit today.

This woman is not a business executive, an underwear model, or, like Beyoncé, someone extremely successful in her business while wearing little more than underwear. And, don’t get me wrong: I LOVE Beyoncé. I do. But Beyoncé didn’t wipe my tears or scraped knees when I was in elementary school, give me the encouragement I needed to even leave the house in middle school, or run into my room screaming when we found out that I got into an elite university I never even dreamed I would apply to.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life, or how I’m going to make it meaningful. I know that it won’t come easily, and that I’ll definitely gaze longingly at some Beyoncés, or even some girls in my classes at school, and be insecure about my difficulties with sequential thinking and math, my squirrel cheeks and my dented front teeth, my lack of social graces, and my mediocre grade-point average that I work my hardest for on a daily basis. What I do know, though, is that I can’t be everyone’s everything, but I will definitely be someone’s something. As a writer, editor, teacher, parent, and/or who knows what, as a feminist and a friend and a daughter and a human I vow to do something good. I think “Love on Top” is fantastic, but now I’m going to take my headphones off and go for a run.