Madelyn sets the crossword to the side. None of the answers are right, but she still managed to make everything fit. Making yourself right tastes better over a cup of instant coffee. Her daughter gifted her fancy beans from Colombia last Christmas. The bag sits on the counter next to the coffee pot, unopened. She likes the ink print on the front so much that she could never bring herself to open it. She settles for opening more cards with other people's names on them instead.
Madelyn finishes The Plain Dealer’s daily crossword puzzle in thirty minutes flat. She gets up from the kitchen table for a second cup of coffee and stirs in three spoonfuls of sugar. Metal on ceramic echoes through the kitchen. When she sits back down, she takes out today’s bundle of mail and removes its rubber band, bounty unfurled.
Until I was about eight, I thought my grandpa was a Spaniard. This may have had something to do with him looking a lot like Antonio Banderas in Zorro, but probably had more to do with the fact that I couldn’t understand a single fucking word he said. And like most kids who grow up in Florida, the only other language you are even a little bit aware of was Spanish. Meaning: that when he talked and I couldn’t understand him, I thought he was speaking Spanish.
We aren’t ready. When Sebastian holds the door, and the sky blinks into blackness, we aren’t ready. When everyone is left standing in the neon glare of street lamps, we aren’t ready. And when those lights inevitably wink out, too? Well, we aren’t ready for that either.
Writing in the middle of a pandemic is hard. Everything is hard. But I assure you that I am working, or at least trying to work. This is by no means a complete piece, or even good, but it is work. And it is me.
Whenever I finish a project, I feel empty. It’s not a scooped out feeling, it’s more of a “I’m not here” feeling. It’s like existing in a sensory deprivation tank. Finishing the last draft of my novel after 8 months of work was similar. When I was done, there was no fanfare or feeling of elation; instead, it was like I had been editing someone else’s pages, not my own, like the pride belonged to someone else. Why is it so difficult for me to feel proud of anything I write? Why does it feel like this draft is only tangentially attached to me instead of an actual piece of my spirit? Is this me rejecting my child? Am I a bad mother? Or have I experienced enough rejection and lackluster responses that I don’t want to run the risk of growing emotionally attached to something that is so…me?
My father always told me to look to the stars to find my way home. That was true a long time ago, when he was younger, before the universe started fraying at the edges. The stars haven’t shined brightly in decades. Even if they did, I’m not sure I would know the way home, especially all the way up here. But it’s easy to pretend that I can pinpoint where Earth is out this little window, despite the fact that there is nothing but blackness and the occasional moon or bulbous orange planet that doesn’t remind me of our galaxy at all. We’re far from where we started.
There is smoke. It has grown thicker over the last hour, invading my lungs and stinging my eyes. I take another hit and begin to cough. Someone laughs, which is to be expected. With six joints circulating between the eight of us, there is a certain etiquette that is expected. The chuckles die down and leave us in silence in the cool dark of someone’s basement that is lit up with Christmas lights. I guess I don’t know where I am. I guess it doesn't matter.
Dez is not a morning person. I remind myself of the fact when I feel the urge to ruffle his hair. His snapping turtle role isn’t worth a few moments of happiness. In the end, it’s my feelings that’ll be hurt and Dez who won’t remember what he said, halfheartedly apologizing in his boxers over coffee before I go to work.
For months and months and months I've tried to get my shitty short stories published. They haven't been (because they're shitty, obviously). So, in an attempt to move some of them out into the world, I give you this. Surrealist fiction (which is what I want to call this) is not my wheelhouse, but it was sweet, sweet torture to write. Thank you for reading, as always!