My story is online at Entropy magazine

My creative nonfiction story The Size of Hummingbirds was posted yesterday at Entropy magazine.

There was an American robin on a bough above us guarding its nest. I had pointed it out to Rob, as well as the male grackle that had been looming higher in the tree for several days, as if setting its sights on raiding the nest.

The story is included in Entropy’s ongoing series The Birds, which features fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and essays.

My great-grandmother lived into her late 90s

In my late great-grandmother’s building on Bathgate Avenue in the Bronx

about a block from my old Catholic elementary school
the stairs creaked like a rocker on the front porch
they had resonance as if empty crates walked upon.
A skunky amalgam of boiled cabbage and potatoes
still in their dusty, cratered skins always permeated
the air as I climbed to the third floor for a visit.
They were the smells of death and aging
but still I knew they were not emanating from my
great-grandmother’s since she was from Sicily (died in her late 90s)
and cooked accordingly. Besides, she did mostly baking:
Those cookies she’d make by the batch, we had named
them “rocks,” crafted with a thick chocolate glaze stiffened
to a shell, and the inside with nuts and dried fruits
and all the warmth and texture of the earth.
They had a shelf life of almost forever

The mushroom lady

The mushroom lady is afoot after a winter-long downtime. She has the air of someone who worked in retail or perhaps an administrative office in a grade school. In her Old Navy shorts and button-down shirt and her hair done like Margaret Thatcher, she prowls the grounds of the apartment complex for sprouts of fungi. Then she sits on the ground and tears away tufts of the lawn like a kid in a sandbox.
Did her line of work have her yanking out hair of her own?
Or maybe she suffered a broken heart?
A widow, sometimes she uses
her two small dogs as a ruse
to go digging for mushrooms
more than once a day, the
yield stashed in a plastic
bag in lieu of poop,
which she allows
the dogs to do,
but she does
not bother
scooping.

A note about perfection

I sit in the morning, tweezing my eyebrows, my coffee turning lukewarm. Over the past few days, my hairs have gathered like the poppy seeds on my toasted bagel — a small colony near the tail of my left brow, spread out like the homes of a suburb on the periphery of a city. But in the same region of my right brow, there is noticeably less density.

In another hindrance, my laser tech fucked up my left brow years ago just above the inside corner of my eye, leaving it sparse, like the crown of a 70-year-old woman. So duh, of course I try to make the other one match, and therefore I tweeze appropriately. Or sometimes I will go in with a brow pencil — dark brown, which always seems to be a mismatched shade, anyhow — in an attempt to correct the scalded one.

In my psyche lurks the deep-rooted illusion of symmetry, a resident phantom that is only mathematically possible yet takes up quarters in the recesses of my brain’s frontal lobe, filed under “beauty standards.” But reality suggests that no two eyebrows are alike. On top of that, my right wrist is thicker than my left; the left side of my face is more flattering than my right; and I am a friendlier, more talkative person after coffee, a sort of Jekyll and Hyde, as many of us are.

I struggle with my brows. Defying all reason, I want both arches to crest above the outer borders of my iris, as is recommended in diagrams for the shape of my face. The lines must aspire to the appearance of bent iron or the malformed finger of the nun who scolded me in grade school when my desk failed to line up like a domino alongside the others in my row.

Her ideal car color was red

I should have known — her ideal car color was red, she said. Red — denoting sensuality, violence.  Blood and anger. Power, passion & war.

And I can see her in that car, too. Probably a sports car. A Lamborghini — the one where the two doors open at a predatory slant, like the wings of a vulture, en route to pounce.

But she came off as meek, sweet, compassionate. Almost childlike. Despite her explosive physical beauty. Despite the fact that her laugh was breathy, her voice frequently slurred. Like she was in the middle of sex.

And she had that glow, too. In fact, her cheeks swelled with so much blood & heat when she smiled that sometimes it would seem like the thermostat moved up a few ticks.

In my consciousness, red is akin to Venus (aka Aphrodite), the goddess of almost anything carnal.

  • Venus, the goddess for whom a wine festival — Vinalia Urbana — was held annually on the 23rd of April, her signature month — its linguistic origin linked to the name Aphrodite.
  • Venus, the one who fought over the mortal Adonis with the goddess Proserpina until Zeus intervened, decreeing that the pair spend a third of the year apiece with their object of affection, leaving him free to choose where he’d spend the remaining third.

In the end, Adonis was exclusive with Venus, until he was killed by a wild bore.

Money and blood

I don’t have anything against making rent payments. I just don’t like to watch — just like when I get blood drawn. I look away when the needle goes in, then turn around again as the nurse is placing a band-aid on the boo-boo.

Granted, paying rent is easy enough these days. It’s all done online. I just don’t like to be the one to enter my card information and click “agree” to accept the so-called convenience charge.

Delegating this monthly task would be ideal. I’d log in to my account and have a designee do the dirty work. The person would then tell me, “Your rent is paid,” and I’d breathe a sigh of relief. Like when surgery is over and the nurse nudges you back into consciousness, tells you that the operation was a success.

Problem priorites

I am in a chatty mood today, so I will discuss while at the same time trying to entertain.

It is not beneath me to steal napkins from the Whole Foods cafe area because my house is in need of them and I don’t want to bother with buying them after I finish my lunch due to refusal to wait on the checkout line just for a dumb pack of napkins.

I eat two pieces of teriyaki salmon and some mashed potatoes and declare myself on vacation from all responsible thought. Mashed potatoes provide a primordial joy, so it’s hard to take the world seriously when you’re eating them. I get that same who-gives-a-crap-about-anything-else attitude also when I eat ice cream, or, of course, have sex.

Regardless, after having stuffed a modest wad of napkins into my purse, complete with the Whole Foods logo and some facts about animal welfare and hormone-free meat, I meander over to the adjacent bookstore, drink a double espresso and purchase a fun literary magazine (Barrelhouse) and a new 5 x 7 journal. Then I scurry home with my treasures.

She went with the Bride of Frankenstein Look

I think ringlety hair on a woman is super hot. I think it’s because it’s big & wild & seemingly chaotic. Also, the idea of possibly being unable to run my fingers through her hair is oddly appealing. I cannot help but think that I would instead hold it in bunches, which is also an appealing thought.

Booth by the door

I drove by a Japanese steakhouse where I had eaten dinner with an old boyfriend. It was where we had missed the flames flickering recklessly in the hot grease, the vegetables sputtering, the aroma of seasoned meats searing against the hot steal, the chefs’ dazzling sleight of hand.

After almost three years together, increasingly plagued by bickering and resentment, the two of us ended things. We had no more to give. The thing was, we had made no effort to turn it around, even though there was so much potential at the beginning.

In retrospect, it’s clear that we blew a good opportunity to create and enjoy something rewarding, exciting, long-lasting.

At the restaurant, we sat in a booth by the door. We ate and then left generally unimpressed, save for the decor. It was only later that I found out that the restaurant had a back room where all the good stuff happened. Stuff that made the trip worthwhile and memorable: there were teppanyaki tables as well as performing chefs cooking behind an open hibachi.

I wonder if my ex ever went back with someone else.