top of page

Search Results

Results found for ""

  • Our Kisses Might Taste Like Chalk

    There's chalk in my mouth, chalk on your lips, all chalk coughed from the lungs of black blocks. You always clap erasers with bravado, but you're scared to touch me, ask me… What if I help? Write dusty words with a dusty finger, scratch the board, leave marks you can't erase, smooth them to nothing with the joints of my fingers. What if I kiss you? What if it's hard, what if it's not what you thought it’d be, what if its bad, what if I said so what? What if a kiss is like a car, all metal and fear but inside, inside there is just smooth leather and seats that lean back. And the driving, oh god the driving is scary at first, but when you roll down the windows you feel the wind and you feel free. And you don't always have to drive fast, baby, one day we'll get still, and the leather will be worn, and your car will feel like home, and you wont need your chalkboard erasers, you wont need to be scared, you can just be with me.

  • When It Rains, It Pours

    I was 6 the first time the issue was brought to light. My mom was giving me sharp tugs at regular intervals, reminding me that we were running late for school. “C’mon Quinnie. Almost there, okay? Just a little farther,” she half-heartedly encouraged, though we both knew my first-grade legs would move no faster than their current rate. A drizzle I hadn’t noticed began to pick up, and my mother uttered a quick “Zut alors!” under her breath as she tried again to pick up the pace. “C’mon honey, we’re so close, I promise, you can do it.” We turned a final corner and the school yard finally came into view. She urged me forward, saying, “I’ll see you after school, okay? Now go run to class,” but I clung to her arm in the increasingly weighty rain. Pulling her down to hear my small voice well, I asked a question I was too young to truly fear asking. “Mama, is it okay to…” I paused and glanced at a group of girls being ushered into the school building as I spoke, my friends, and I wondered if my question would even make sense. “Is it okay to kiss your friends on the cheek?” I hastily added context, “Just as friends, not like a boy, obviously, but just because we are best friends, is that ok?” My mom just stared back through the thin sheet of water between us. Then again, in fourth grade. A bright late-May sun compelled us to sneak down to the cool underbelly of the jungle gym, Maggie and I. We weren’t supposed to be down there, and we giggled a little with innocent fear. She folded a tangle of black curls behind her ear, and I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I went in to give her an uncomfortable hug, despite the heat, and almost instinctively gave her a quick shy kiss on the cheek. A flash rain started just then, and as I pulled away to see her recoil from me, kids started running to join us under the dark side of the brightly colored structure, forcing us farther from the edges where little bits of rain found their way in. She made a weak attempt to whisper among the recent sea of shifting children, saying, “Quinn…” She struggled to continue the sentence, so unknown and… disgusting were the words she had to ask. “Did you just kiss me?” A thousand thoughts ran through my head, and while confusion was present, her reaction made shame preside over all. I swiftly tried to change the narrative, No Maggie, I would never, I would never. I soothed her worries, I calmed her fears, It was just a hug, I swear I didn’t, I didn’t. I questioned the both of us, Why would I even do that? We laughed together at that last comment, and this time she pulled me in for a hug, an apology and forgiveness all at once. I couldn’t help myself from adding one last comment, a solidification of my innocence in her eyes: I assured us, Ew, that would be gross, while she nodded in agreement. Finally the rain stopped just as quick as it had started, and from the safety of our perch below the jungle gym, we watched the remaining puddles instantly dry. A few more years passed by without consequence, until another rainy day in the spring of 2018. As I did homework at the kitchen table, my mom’s soft footsteps came closer from her office, and she came into my peripheral vision. I watched from the corner of my eye as she went to the kitchen window and looked out over the foggy city below. It had been raining for weeks, and while she didn’t mind the weather, I knew she missed sunnier days. She opened the window to let some fresh air in, and moved to grab a glass and get some water. I tried to focus my mind on the page in front of me, my pencil scratching the surface of my worksheet, but she kept pulling my attention back to her. She would turn towards me as her glass filled from the fridge, opening her mouth for a moment before changing her mind and twisting to face the fridge again, until finally the comment she had clearly had on her mind broke the room's soft silence like a gunshot. “Quinn, honey, you know that it’s… okay if you’re gay, right?” A different kind of silence hung in the air this time, so thick it was suffocating. My focus was everywhere and nowhere, on the glass, filling much too quickly and much too slow, my mother’s glasses hanging precariously at the tip of her nose, and the window. I wanted to close it so badly, I hated watching it, knowing it was letting in tiny raindrops, ones too small to notice until they collected onto your now-soaked window ledge. I answered obnoxiously, like the question was ridiculous. “Oh my god, mom. I’m not gay, okay?” She responded timidly, but persisted, “Okay, but if you were, you know that we would accept you, right honey?” The window would not stop letting water in, and now it was dripping from the ledge onto the kitchen counter. It wouldn’t be long before it would be everywhere. Tapping my pencil anxiously, I finally had had enough and pushed back my chair. “Ooookay mom, got it.” I couldn’t have moved any faster to the window. Practically slamming it shut, I guaranteed her retreating figure. “But I’m not, you know. Gay.” I was thinking about all these as I pushed the door open and exited the store with her, arm and arm, right into the pouring rain. We just laughed and ran under nearby scaffolding, where we checked to make sure the flags we’d drawn poorly with makeup on each other’s faces hadn’t washed off. My finger traced the side of her cheek, along the edge of the semi-neat stripes there, pink, purple, blue, and she smiled at my touch. My other hand tangles itself with hers, and she asks lightheartedly, “How are we supposed to get to your house?” I start pulling her back towards the rain, despite neither of us carrying anything that will protect us even remotely from the sheets of water crashing down. “We’ll have to run, I guess, ” I reply, and that’s all it takes to get her sprinting with me down the avenues, rain coming at us from every which way, gasping with laughter the whole time. Eventually we come to a stop, too tired to keep up the fast pace, and she leans against me, grinning into the shoulder of my soaked shirt. I looked down into her eyes and kissed her cheek carefully, feeling her smile. “Is this okay?” I ask, and she nods back at me happily. Finally, I looked up into the sky and let the rain cover my grin. It’s more than okay.

  • Wild Flowers Native to New York

    The first time I fall in love, it is with a magnolia. I love her quietly, behind a diary; I watch her from afar, from below, with a sense of awe. She stands tall, branches thick with flowers, but then she wilts so quickly; just one month and her pink is tinged with brown. By the time I am close enough to see the veins of her leaves she is rotting on the branch, her smell of dying sickly sweet, choking me. Her remnants fall and float atop the water long after she herself is gone. Nonetheless, I follow the decaying pieces, I follow the river, I follow someone who is not there to lead. The second time I fall in love, it is with a dahlia Her love grows with mine, but slowly, so slowly. Worse, she is perennial; for the second time in my life, I wait by the river, I wait for a flower to bloom. One day I pot her, bring her home, and she makes my cats sick. It occurs to me for the very first time that all flowers are poisonous to someone. Both of them still have some roots left in me. When I’m not careful I think there will always be roots here, roots deep within me that mourn. I worry to myself that I will never stop aching, for warm skin in winter, for cold hands in june. At my worst I let strong fingers clutch at my windpipe (better than the memory of lips in the hollow of my throat). At my best I watch my hands press against my chest to fill the place I’d made for a garden.

  • When No One's Watching

    It’s 11:54 when we leave the party. I have to drag her away; she’s tipsy from sneaking sips of my parents’ champagne and doesn’t see the need to rush. I can’t judge her—I’m not all there myself—but I know we’ll be glad to have made the effort. We arrive at the house two minutes later, far out of my parents' sight, and the sole light of our porch lamp is dim. I play a song from my phone quietly, letting the stream nearby push against the melody. She smiles, like she always does when I play our song, and pulls me to her by the waist. We take turns doing the “man's” part when we dance, and today she lets me play the lady, my right hand on her shoulder, my left entwining with hers in the air. The clock warns 11:58, so we start moving, gentle sways and misplaced steps as usual. At one point she spins me, and when I come back we are closer together, almost embracing. From the direction of the party we hear someone drunkenly start a count far too high (30! 29! 28!). She laughs loudly, and I can barely see her but she is beautiful, she is so, so beautiful. I tell her this and she laughs again and I’m so filled with joy I wonder if I am drunk or in love with her or both. The counting comes louder now, more voices (10! 9!) and in the distance behind her faraway fireworks dot the sky. The music swells (6! 5!) and she's not laughing now, just smiling at me like I am probably smiling at her. She closes the distance between us (3! 2!) and I don’t hear the one because then she is kissing me for the very first time. Behind the hill hiding us from view people are using their noisemakers to the best of their abilities and she must hear it too because suddenly she is a foot away from me and I am cold. The noise gets louder, approaching, until we can see them, happy, joyous, huddled together for warmth. My parents call us over with gloved fingers, and we walk, her making sure we keep an appropriate distance. My stomach twists at the thought that she might be mad at me, but then everythings ok; under the cheering, she hums our waltz.

  • The World in 2035 if Nothing is Done about Climate Change

    Literary adaptation of a formally delivered speech. Good morning, everyone. Here is the meteorological forecast for the 13th of August, 2035. Seas will be rough, with violent storms, and visibility will range from poor to very poor for the next 24 hours. The outlook for tomorrow is less fair. Persons are advised to exercise precautionary measures in areas of heavy showers/ thundershowers and rain, given that the soil may have reached saturation and additional rainfall may result in water accumulation and flooding in these locations. Hilly areas may experience landslides. Above-normal high tides may result in over-topping the river and sea defenses in vulnerable areas. Residents are advised to take the necessary precautions.” I write this imaginary forecast with an apology to the multitude of scientists who, from time immemorial, tried to warn their colleagues and the general public on the lasting effects of climate change; those same scientists who were criticized and shunned for their ‘cretinous, half-baked ideologies.’ These discoveries were not taken seriously in the scientific community, and at that time, many experts believed that nature could self-regulate and that man's impact was minimal. The hypothetical weather bulletin presented above can be released and broadcasted by many meteorological stations worldwide in the coming years of this century. Destructive torrential rainfall may not sound good news, but these will be among the least of the world’s problems in the coming era of peak climate turbulence. With social collapse a real threat in the next 14 years, it will be an achievement in 2035 if there are still institutions to make weather predictions, radio transmitters accessible to share them, and seafarers willing to listen to the ‘anachronistic’ content. Journalists generally abhor writing about the future. They are trained to report on the very recent past and current happenings, not gaze into crystal balls. However, Tim Radford, a former science magazine editor, allowed himself no such safe distance or equivocation in 2004. Radford looked forward to a point when global warming was no longer so easy to ignore. Applying his expert knowledge of the best science available at the time, he predicted 2020 would be the year the planet started to feel the heat as something real and urgent. “We’re still waiting for the Earth to start simmering,” he wrote back in that climate-comfortable summer of 2004. “Expect summer 2020 to be every bit as oppressive.” How right he was. He also correctly anticipated how much more hostile this would make the climate – with increasingly ferocious storms, intensifying forest fires, and massive bleaching of coral reefs. The difference will be visible from space. By the middle of the 21st century, the globe will change markedly from the blue marble humanity first saw in wondrous color in 1972. The white northern ice cap vanishes completely each summer, while the southern pole will shrink beyond recognition. The lush green rainforests of the Amazon, Congo and Papua New Guinea are smaller and possibly enveloped in smoke. From the subtropics to the mid-latitudes, a grimy-white band of deserts has formed a thickening ring around the northern hemisphere. It is the year 2035. Adolescents and young adults of Generation Z (Gen Z) are now in their early thirties. Their teenage fears of the complete extinction of the human race have not yet come to pass, but the risk of a breakdown of civilization is higher than at any previous time in history – and rising steadily. They live with a level of anxiety their grandparents could have barely imagined. The world is more hostile, less fertile, crowded, and less diverse. The rich have retreated into air-conditioned sanctums behind ever higher walls. The impecunious – and what is left of other populations – is left exposed to the ever-harsher elements. Everyone is affected by rising prices, conflict, stress, and depression. It feels as if the dial on a cooker has been turned from nine o’clock to midnight. World Cups and Olympics were moved to the winter to avoid the furnace-like heat in many cities. Now they are not held at all. It is impossible to justify the emissions, and the world is no longer in the mood for games. In 2035, the world could look back and see the pandemic as little more than a blip in a long and mostly futile effort to stave off global warming. Despite a temporary drop in carbon emissions from the 2020 outbreak, countries turned to cheap fossil fuels to revive their economies after the crisis. Carbon emissions soared, and temperatures followed, setting the stage for 5°C warming by the century's end. Beyond the emissions reductions registered in 2015, no further efforts were made to control emissions. The first thing that hits you is the air. In many places worldwide, the air is hot, heavy, and depending on the day, clogged with particulate pollution. Your eyes often water. Your cough never seems to disappear. You can no longer simply walk out your front door and breathe fresh air. Instead, before opening doors or windows in the morning, you check your phone to see the air quality. Everything might look fine—sunny and clear—but you know better when storms and heat waves overlap and cluster. Air pollution and intensified surface ozone levels can make it dangerous to go outside without a specially designed face mask (which only some can afford). Our world is getting hotter, an irreversible development now utterly beyond our control. For many years, oceans, forests, plants, trees, and soil had absorbed half the carbon dioxide we spewed out. Now there are few forests left, most of them either logged or consumed by wildfire, and the permafrost is belching greenhouse gases into an already overburdened atmosphere. In five to ten years, vast swaths of the planet will be increasingly inhospitable to humans. No one knows what the future holds for their children and grandchildren. Because multiple disasters often happen simultaneously, basic food and water relief can take weeks or even months to reach areas pummeled by extreme floods. Malaria, dengue, cholera, respiratory illnesses, and malnutrition are rampant. Melting permafrost is releasing ancient microbes that today’s humans have never been exposed to—and as a result, have no resistance against. Diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks are rampant as these species flourish in the changing climate, spreading to previously safe parts of the planet and increasingly overwhelming us. Worse still, the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance has only intensified as the population has grown denser in habitable areas and temperatures continue to rise. Every day, because of rising water levels, some parts of the world must evacuate to higher ground. Every day you see images of mothers with babies strapped to their backs, wading through floodwaters. News stories tell of people living in houses with water up to their ankles because they have nowhere else to go; their children coughing and wheezing because of the mold growing in their beds, insurance companies declaring bankruptcy, leaving survivors without resources to rebuild their lives. Those who remain on the coast must now witness the demise of a way of life-based on fishing. As oceans have absorbed carbon dioxide, the water has become more acidic and is now so hostile to marine life that all but a few countries have banned fishing, even in international waters. Many insist that the few fish left should be enjoyed while they last. As devastating as rising oceans have been, droughts and heat waves inland have created a special hell. Vast regions have succumbed to severe aridification, sometimes followed by desertification. The wildlife there has become a distant memory. You try not to think about the 2 billion people who live in the hottest parts of the world, where, for upward of 45 days per year, temperatures skyrocket to 140°F (60°C) —a point at which the human body cannot be outside for longer than approximately six hours because it loses the ability to cool itself down. Mass migrations to less hot rural areas are beset by a host of refugee problems, civil unrest, and bloodshed over diminished water availability. Even in some parts of the world, there are fiery conflicts over water, battles between the rich who are willing to pay for as much water as they want, and everyone else demanding equal access to the life-enabling resource. The taps in nearly all public facilities are locked, and those in restrooms are coin-operated. Governments are in an uproar over water redistribution: countries with less water demand what they see as their fair share from countries that have more. Food production swings wildly from month to month, season to season, depending on where you live. More people are starving than ever before. Climate zones have shifted, so some new areas have become available for agriculture (Alaska, the Arctic), while others have dried up (Mexico, California). Ever since the equatorial belt became challenging to inhabit, an unending stream of migrants has been moving north from Central America toward Mexico and the United States. Others are moving south toward the tips of Chile and Argentina. The same scenes are playing out across Europe and Asia. Some countries have been better global ‘Good Samaritans’ than others, but even they have now effectively shut their borders, their wallets, and their eyes. Even if you live in areas with more temperate climates, such as Canada and Scandinavia, you are still highly vulnerable. Severe tornadoes, flash floods, wildfires, mudslides, and blizzards are often in the back of your mind. Depending on where you live, you have a fully stocked storm cellar or an emergency go-bag in your car. People are glued to weather forecasts. Only the foolhardy shut their phones off at night. If an emergency hits, you may only have minutes to respond. The weather is unavoidable, but lately, the news about what is happening at the borders has become too much for most people to endure. Under increasing pressure from public health officials, news organizations have decreased the number of stories devoted to genocide and refugee virus outbreaks. You can no longer trust the news. Social media, long the grim source of live feeds and disaster reporting, is brimming with conspiracy theories and doctored videos. The demise of the human species is being discussed more and more. For many, the only uncertainty is how long we will last and how many more generations will see the light of day. Suicides are the most obvious manifestation of the prevailing despair, but there are other indications: a sense of bottomless loss, unbearable guilt, and fierce resentment at previous generations who did not do what was necessary to ward off this unstoppable calamity. A storm is indeed brewing. The science is clear on that. The question is how we face it in 2022 before it reaches a devastating climax in later years.

bottom of page