Monday, December 28, 2009


My grandmother was new to the small Catholic town when she met my grandfather. The young daughter to a Protestant pastor, he a young Catholic man, they later wed during a quiet ceremony with only two witnesses standing by.

Years later, she is Grandma, he is Gramps. Together they have raised a large family with tough love, boisterous debates, piano lessons, boat trips, good food, great laughs and strong Catholic traditions and faith.

"Religion." I say in their dining room after pork roast and mashed potatoes. "What should I do about religion?"

My mother and father raised me to be a good Catholic girl. Penance. First Communion. Confirmation. Even a school run by an old scary nun. Scott was raised to be a good Jewish boy. Bris. Bar Mitzvah. He even went to a Jewish summer camp. His mother wanted him to find a nice Jewish girl to marry, but he met me instead. And because of the times, we were able to have a large, loud wedding with 150 witnesses standing by.

"As long as you raise them with a foundation. With faith." They tell me, referring to the future children I hadn't mentioned yet.
"They can make their own decisions later, like you are now."

And before I can say Jesus, a passionate discussion snowballs into a fat white man with a carrot for a nose. Slumped beside Grandma's pink beeswax candles, the man melts. The man is doubt. My brother points to the charcoal stone buttons, the red and blue striped soggy scarf and the sinking top hat, but Grandpa lights a fire under the table and turns Frosty into a warm puddle.

"I never quite understood the difference between the father, the son and the holy spirit." I say.

"Can you explain the difference between ice, water and steam? If you can, you can understand the difference between The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit." Dark creases empty and fill his wrinkled eyes as he fights for faith, as he has always fought for faith. A retired engineer, he tells us about the religious debates he once had with the atheist scientists in his college class. "When I think of the entire universe: stars, people, the world, I cannot imagine that it all evolved from two molecules that just accidentally bumped into one another. I cannot help but believe that there is a higher power that created it all."

Grandma wipes crumbs into a pile as she explains her blind faith. When her eldest child died overseas in the 1980s, she tells us, it was this blind faith which led her to recovery. Led her to find relief from grief during daily morning masses.

There is more conviction and passion coming from my grandparents' dining room table than all the altars of my childhood churches. Perhaps this is why I ask them, "Religion. What should I do about religion?" and not a priest or rabbi.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Penny's Poop

I have been hiding Penny's poop all over town, under dirt, dried leaves and even corn husks.

After the first snow storm, I thought I was golden for months. Clean white snow balls to coat the poop like confectionery sugar. No one will ever know.

But this morning, I ran past one of Penny's poops. It had scattered all over a stranger's front yard.

How could this happen? I covered it with snow!

now is deceptive. It preserves poop like the toilet paper cloths once used to mummify ancient Egyptians. And one day soon, Penny's poop will defrost and come back to life. It will be everywhere and everyone living in our walking proximity will know that it was me hiding the poop. Me pretending to retrieve a plastic bag from my empty pocket whenever anyone drives by while Penny is squatting. Me scooping snow; shoveling dirt and gathering dried leaves. Me hiding Penny's poop all over town. Me.

I will remove this poop before anyone sees, I decide, and if anyone sees, they will applaud my honesty. I bring Penny home. I grab my keys and snow shovel and drive to this person's front yard.
I put the car's flashers on to be safe and move like a ninja in my black spandex. One quick scoop, I tell myself. But the poop is frozen like little reindeer lawn ornaments and when I try to shovel them up, they skate and scatter.

I begin to panic.

My words run through my head for when this homeowner comes outside to ask why I am shoveling his yard. "Hi there, I was walking my dog here the other night and I had run out of doggy poop bags because she had already gone earlier in the walk and she went on your lawn. I meant to come back to clean it up, but it completely slipped my mind. So today when I was running by, I remembered and went home for my shovel. I'm really very sorry. I usually ALWAYS have my doggy bags with me."

I often think up elaborately realistic lies for why I am late or why I am doing something wrong, but I never actually say them aloud to the person. Usually I just run away, mumbling an awkward apology.

I have been in this stranger's yard for too long now.

Crouching, I stare the poop down. I consider picking it up with my fingers. It's covered in ice, I think reaching. It's still poop, I remember pausing. I grab
a ball of ice and guide the poop into the shovel. This technique works.

Next house: horse farm.

This poop has only been there for an hour, but it is already frozen to the snow.
I just need to get one big shovel full of snow and poop, I think, as the shovel bounces against the ice.

Three horses watch me, standing in their feces. Why am I trying to remove poop from a horse farm? Because I am a good neighbor and responsible citizen.

I push the shovel into a couple inches of ice and pull its handle down. It doesn't move. I try again harder. This time the shovel cracks into the ice and shoots Penny's anti-celebratory confetti high into the air. Chunks rain down over me.

I run for the car, cursing myself.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

We drove from the cities, gasping.

I miss walking everywhere for everything.
I say.
It's human nature.
He says.
To want whatever it is you don't have.
I like where we are.
I say to disagree with human nature.
Me too.

I just wish I could walk places.

I know.

Friday, December 11, 2009


She held a box of crackers and a couple of other things in her hands, which I cannot remember now. And as her three items went beep, beep, beep, she asked me seriously, 
"How do you spell benign?"

And I thought: Hmm, I think there is a silent G in there somewhere- "Wait what? ... REALLY?"

"I never really believed that I was sick."

Her first doctor was wrong, very wrong. Luckily, her second doctor thought her first doctor might be wrong, very wrong and took his own scans and biopsies. The tumor on her leg is not cancerous, he told her. B-e-n-i-g-n.

My arms went up and down in squealing silly delight. I wanted to yelp throughout the grocery store, but I stayed where I was while my heart exploded and leaked out from beneath my finger nails. This is what it is like to win the lottery with a bunch of your friends. "We need to celebrate." I told her. 

On my drive home from work it was snowing and I was crying, as I knew I would. A quick cry of relief to reverse all of the fears I had had for two weeks.

Brunch. We'll still have brunches, I thought, of bacon and bread and coffee and orange juice and laughter and Sheila AND Liesel.

Happy. What a word. What a perfect, beautiful word to use today.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Barry: a fictional story

Barry hated his job. Barry hated his wife. Barry even hated his children.

Barry deeply despised his wife, Lee, because she was smarter than him; more attractive than him and because she was not supposed to be with him. She was supposed to be with the mayor’s son, but fifteen years ago, Barry knocked her up. Really she knocked herself up, but it was Barry’s naked body she used.

Why she chose an ugly plumber for revenge was beyond Barry, but at the moment of seduction, he wasn’t about to complain. She called his company to fix her sink and when Barry arrived, Lee was crying. Afraid of women and terrified of crying women, Barry asked to see where the problem was.

“The problem”, she squealed through clear drippy snot, “is men.”
"O.k., hmm, tricky, I can’t fix that.” He said. “So you’re all set?” His words drowned in an awkward mumble as he backed for the door.

"No, I’m not all set.”
And she seduced him. This was not difficult. Barry was an unattractive twenty-four year old plumber who had never been kissed and when Lee leaned toward him, his pimply pale body jumped at the opportunity to touch a woman.

I’m not gay! He thought to himself.

“Who do you like better,” his mother once asked him queerly, “Elton John or The Spice Girls?”

“The Spice Girls are dumb, but I like ‘Tiny Dancer,’ why?”

“Just curious.”

After a few make out minutes of head tilting and tongue touching, Barry was out of ideas and began mimicking Lee. Everything she did, he did back. She touched his cheek; he touched hers. She touched his hair; he touched hers. This worked swimmingly until she ripped off her thin leather belt. Barry mimicked, unbuckling his tool belt and dropping a large adjustable wrench on Lee’s left foot.

Lee called the plumbing company five weeks later. The secretary, Milly, the girl Barry really wished he had dropped his wrench on, gave him the message:

Lee Precious called.
“Tell that ass hole Barry, I’m pregnant.”

Probably the most profanity Milly had ever seen, let alone write on a sticky note.

Milly was sweet. She had been hired a week after Lee’s first call. Milly was a small woman, lady, girl really. Short curly brownish hair, freckles and two very nice boobs. She once caught Barry staring at them. He had been waiting at her desk to ask about the day’s schedule. She was on the phone with a client. She’s such a good secretary, Barry was thinking, with such perfectly swollen water balloon breasts. It was after this thought that Milly looked up. Her eyes caught his and he blushed.

“I was wondering about today’s schedule. Sorry, I don’t know why I said ‘boobs.’”

“Huh? You didn’t.”

“Ok bye.”
The secretary before Milly was an old dirty woman who smelled like body odor, coffee and dirty feet. Nobody liked her, but she had been around for ninety-seven years, answering the phone and complaining to the boss that the plumbers didn’t appreciate her. So Barry was the card guy. Every couple of months, he bought a Thank You card from 7-11 and made everyone sign it.

Milly was young, organized and had a very pleasant vanilla odor. She was also, however, the boss’s “off limits, touch and die” niece. Off limits, to Barry, meant she was even hotter. She was pretty, with a nice set of boobs for sure, but there was something a little wrong with her. She had very small eyebrows, Barry realized one day. A flaw that soon turned into a fantasy. Driving from job to job, Barry would often imagine Milly plucking her eyebrows for hours, to make them perfect for Barry (the young, interesting plumber at work). Milly could have been in a relationship with a big, handsome man named Buck and Barry would never have known. Unfortunately after the infamous sticky note, Milly rarely looked at him.

When Lee was eight weeks pregnant, Barry married her. Lee’s father, a wealthy businessman of business, guilt him into it.

“Be a man.” He said. “You made this mess, now you have to swim in it.”

Barry hated swimming.

Barry’s mother, on the other hand, was happy about her son’s nuptials.

“Thought you were gay, son.” His father said to him.

“I had no idea you had a girlfriend!” Barry’s mother exclaimed.

“Oh Mary, take off your sleeping mask” A saying he coined after Mary woke up one morning and thought she had gone blind in the night. Bill had rolled over and pulled the mask away from her eyes. “He knocked the girl up."
Barry’s father was a straightforward man. Barry usually appreciated his honesty. Not this time.

“Stop that Bill. I don’t like that.”
“I feel bad for the girl’s father. He’s got to give his only daughter away to our son, the plumber.”
“There is nothing wrong with being a plumber. Besides he’s applying for business school this winter.”
“I am?”
“You are. I told her father, Dan, you were hoping to go to graduate school next fall… Oh stop it, don’t look at me like that. You’re a plumber, for Christ’s sake!”
Barry yelled, his arms flailing like a monkey losing its balance. So that was that. He had no say in the matter.

Fifteen years later, Barry drove to work in the city five days a week. Occasionally, he was asked by the secretary to fix a sink or toilet leak. Those were the good days, but all the other days were bad boring days of answering calls, making calls, reading things and pretending he was smarter than he was. Barry hated his job.

And he hated his children, Jane and Daniel. Lee had given them everything they wanted because "they only have one childhood, Barry". Barry once asked Dan if he wanted to go camping. Daniel cried. What a baby, Barry thought. Another time on vacation, Barry asked four-year-old Jane to go for a walk with him on the beach to find sea glass. She screamed.

Barry told his young daughter, who then screamed louder.

Barry wanted to run away from home. He would get away, eventually. He was saving. He had promised himself when he took the job in the city that he would save up and run away. Unfortunately, Lee found his secret savings account. He had kept it for years. Barry told her that it was a back up retirement fund, but she didn’t believe him.

“I want to run away.”
She shook her head.

“You’ll never run away. You need me.” She said. “You know where you’d be without me? You’d be a dirty little plumber!”
And they both yelled,


He never had had much aspiration for a career. He had seen men in his life work years and years at jobs they hated. He didn’t think it was worth it. He wanted a job he didn’t mind, preferably a job he liked. He wouldn’t make as much money, but he would make enough for beers after work with his buddies and dinner with his pretty wife at night. Barry would live contently ever after.

Unfortunately Barry’s plans changed when he was seduced by a crazy rich girl who wanted revenge on the old mayor’s son. She ruined his life with spoiled children, khaki dinner parties and a boring sexless marriage. And Barry had been faithful! Lee probably hadn’t been. She probably slept with other plumbers, the young guy who cut the lawn on Friday mornings and even some of her friends’ husbands, but Barry had been faithful. Really, he didn’t much choice in the matter. He was still pretty ugly, but he dressed all right. Lee made sure of that.

“I’m out.” Barry told her.
“No, I'm sorry Barry, please don't leave. I love you.”

“What? No you don’t.”

“I do, Barry, I love you. And I need you.”
Barry laughed.


There was a pause before she dared to ask him if he loved her. Suddenly Barry was confused. He hated her. Didn’t he? But at that moment, she looked sweet and sad. Oh no, Barry thought, she's crying.

“I have cancer, Barry.”
Barry laughed again.

“Yeaaah right. You just want to make me feel bad.”
“No, Barry, I’m telling you the truth. I have breast cancer.”

Barry was shocked and didn’t say anything for a very long time.



“Are you happy that I’m sick?”

“I don’t think so. No, no I’m sad.”

“You are?”


Lee changed and then Lee died, but the four months between her diagnosis and her death were the best four months of Lee and Barry’s marriage. Lee wouldn’t pester Barry about his job, his torn jeans or his tendency to watch games at the bar with his buddies. And Barry changed. He used his secret savings money to quit his job in the city and take care of Lee. He cooked dinner every night, cleaned the house and even did the laundry. During this time, Barry realized that he had long ago learned to love Lee and now he was learning to like her.

The night before Lee passed away in her sleep, she curled up beside him and said,

“I think death is the only thing that could have scared me into admitting that I love you."

“I love you too, Lee.”

The next morning, Lee was dead beside him. He kept her in bed for a while. It was nice to have her there, sleeping quietly. Eventually, he called the hospital and the list of people she had written down for this very moment. He organized the funeral, the burial and the platters of mini ham sandwiches. On the drive from the graveyard to their home, Barry told Daniel and Jane that he loved them. They didn’t respond. Maybe they hadn’t heard him over their sniffling, Barry couldn't tell.

A moment later at a stoplight, Barry blurted,

“I’ve always loved you guys. I just didn’t like how you treated me.”

“You used to be mean to us.” Jane snorted from behind him.

“When?” Barry pressed.

“You were never home.” Daniel said.

Barry turned around to face the blushed cheeks of his tearful children and said the most heartfelt apology he ever had.

“I’m sorry Dan. I’m sorry Jane. I’m going to start working from home now. I’m going to be a fix it man!”

And he was. He started with fliers and friends. His first couple of calls were pity jobs: people in town wanting to give him money. Eventually, though, he built a name for himself and turned his garage into a shop. During the summer months, Jane was Barry’s adorably bright secretary and Daniel, who also loved fixing stuff, was Barry’s assistant.

Two years after Lee’s death, Barry asked out Milly. She was a waitress in town and her husband had recently left her for a prostitute he swore was his soul mate. That’s what Barry had heard anyway.

Over their candle-lit table at The Olive Garden, Barry handed Milly the sticky note she had written for him so many years before. She giggled when she saw it. Barry smiled and bit into a garlic bread stick.

Barry and Milly shared cheesecake for desert.
Two weeks later, they agreed to share the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


A young woman walks up to my cash register and hands me a pink and black magnet.

"Can you tell me how much this is?" She asks.

"Yes, it is $4.99." I say.

"Ok, I don't want it, that's too much."

I put the magnet beside me and ring up the rest of her college girl groceries. After she leaves the store, I read the magnet.

To the world you may be one person,
but to one person you may be the world.

This girl's world isn't worth $4.99 plus tax.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fictional Conversation from a Non-Fictional Experience

Mom, I tried to brush Penny's teeth.”

What? Why? She's a dog.” She would say in her nonchalant and yet funnily articulate way, as if I did not know that my dog was a dog.

“She wouldn't let me do it though, she kept running away from the toothbrush as if it were a loaded gun. She even clawed at the bathroom door to escape.”

“Should I be worried about you, Rachey? Are you alright out there in the woods?”
Yeah why?”

You tried to brush your dog's teeth.”

The vet said to.” Then we would laugh.

Monday, December 7, 2009

This Tenderness

Once Scott stops shuffling the sheet to align it perfectly with the comforter, my feet melt, and I wish we could hide inside this tenderness forever.

photo by Patrick Cummings

"Get it Penny, GET IT!"

Scott congratulates the dog quietly in the kitchen for killing a black fly. I look up from the book on my lap to eavesdrop. It's quite sweet really. Like a father and daughter hunting together.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Solder Stole His Ticket

I was secretly and only slightly silently pleased to hear the news that my brother, Patrick, would not be flying to Afghanistan.

"At least you're not required to go." I tell him. Could be worse, Patrick, you could be made of chicken wings, marshmallow fluff and baby teeth, but you're not. You are made of Old Black Beard bravery, Spider-Man strength and you have a heart that should be molded into a cutter, like a Christmas cookie cutter, for God to mold the hearts of all big brothers. I'm sorry I never call,
but I'll see you on December 25th.


"They told us fifty-fifty." Sheila whispers to me in the kitchen. Standing in my socks, I try not to cry. I smile and nod my head pretending to myself and to her that this information, this scientific statistic given to them by an oncologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is not news to me.

"She may not be with us next year."
Liesel's mother said to the two of them the night before, Sheila tells me. "We don't want to think or talk about that now." I imagine they were smiling when they said this, the way they do when they don't feel like smiling.

Across the kitchen, Liesel leans against the sink, laughing with Scott. No matter which fifty of the fifty-fifty she is given, I that know Liesel's homemade strawberry ice cream heart will never expire and everyone lucky enough to love and be loved by her will always have a bowl half-full in their hands.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


She slides across the soft wooden floor like a fearless five-year-old skier learning to stop at the bottom of the bunny slope. She bounces back to me, the pink squeaky toy in her mouth. 

Squeak. Squeak. Sqeeeak!
It's play time.

She is jumping on the couches and curling my area rugs like the painting of a windy beach. I don't mind. Here she can't run away in a distracted hunt for squirrels, cats or birds. She can't pull her leash to smell every blade of grass and pee like a boy dog on every other mailbox (even though she's been running on empty for miles). She can't hump strangers' dogs and she can't bark at joggers who yell, "That is not o.k."

Here her ears stand when I squeal the words: "Ready to go OUTSIDE?" "Hey Penny, where's that BALL of yours?" and
"wannaa TREAT?"
I ask my dog many questions. Why? You wonder. Because she always responds with a wagging tail.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Adventures to Film and Photograph

My brother is going to Afghanistan. He isn't a soldier. He's the photographer, writer and filmographer for a fitness company. He is going to film soldiers working out on an airbase. It will take him days on planes and hours on bumpy dirt roads to get there.

At one point, I imagine he'll think, 
I'm glad Mom can't see me now. At another point, I imagine he'll think, I wish Dad could see me now.

I just hope his big muscles and bravery can protect him from hidden road side bombs, airplane crashes and frantically flying bullets. These thoughts are far worse when written, but I currently do not have any sugar in the pantry to coat them with so please chew them slowly and wash them down with water.

I fear Patrick's death. Why wouldn't I? He's my brother.

Monday, November 23, 2009


STRESS joined a small young family. It sat with them at dinner; laid with them in bed and slept inside the young husband's pockets during the day, awaking with every jostle to bite his leg with its short pointy teeth. The young wife tried to hide STRESS in her pockets, but her pockets were too shallow. This particular ball of STRESS only fit inside a man's deep-pocketed trousers. And because she could not pocket it, the young wife began laughing and dancing wildly to distract her husband, but eventually she would grow tired and pause and during those pauses, STRESS's screams would be heard again, its bites felt again.

One day, the young husband dreamed, he wouldn't rely on STRESS to pay the heating bill, the monthly rent and the food expenses and when that day comes, he will evict STRESS from his pockets.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Clean Sweep

I sweep the floors; mop the kitchen with a short rope mop and gather trash and recycling. At the sink, I scrub dried tomato sauce from a pot. I wash the bathroom with a sponge. I do not dust, but I remember to water the plants.

When Scott comes home, I present my productivity like a proud prattling third grader before her science fair project on photosynthesis. "Thanks."
He says, laying down his keys and handing me a floppy yellow ribbon.

Fine. Next week, I will ignore the damp unwashed towels sleeping in a pile; the trash bins of tampered tissues; the clumps of dog hair rolling like tumbleweed and the oily-fingerprinted water glasses on the nightstand.

Later, we sit side by side in the movie theater. I glance at his shoulder and think, I love that shoulder. I love those scratchy cheeks, the firm press of his fingertips on my back, that childish smile, and the way he carefully pulls on his shirt and sits to put on his shoes.

"Thanks again for cleaning. I really appreciate it."

"You're welcome." I say in a strange shyness, thankful for his gratitude.

I hate the feeling of crumbs crunching into my socks. That is the real reason why I clean, but I need the thanks like I need a broom, because half of the crumbs are his.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

apple to apple

The natural honey roasted peanut butter is soft because I leave it out on the counter. When I peel back the plastic lid, I stir the puddle of peanut oil back into the thick nut butter beneath it. I tiptoe across the creaking floor, afraid to bother the old woman who lives downstairs.

I sit on the couch watching a French film and eating three apples with peanut butter because no one is home to tell me that it is strange to do so.

Gaseous Gal

I wanted to fool around, but I farted and when I flapped the blankets, desire escaped with the rancid fumes. "Too much broccoli and chocolate cake!" I blamed. For it is always the food's fault. Never mine. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

tall green candles

My dear friend bakes me a double layered chocolate cake and wraps it in fluffy white marshmallow frosting and crunchy rainbow sprinkles. In the middle, she spreads a sweet layer of raspberry jam.

She pierces the cake with several tall green candles and lights them quietly in the kitchen. She places the cake stand in her hands and walks toward the table,
prompting everyone in the room to sing. Too distracted by the happy in my birthday to be embarrassed that I had admitted to a birthday of solitary beer drinking, I smile and do what I am told:

"Blow out the candles and make a wish!" I thank my friend for her beautiful cake. She smiles and shakes her head. "We would bake you a hundred cakes, Rachel."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


She pulls her index and middle fingers to her mouth and sticks her tongue between them. "What does this mean?" Mom asks, frightening her children into laughter.

She has seen a picture of my cousin making this gesture. A picture
not intended for her aunt to see. A picture not intended for her grandmother, her father, her mother, the creepy kid in her Biology class, an internet stalker, a level three sex offender, or a rapist to see, but a picture posted publicly online for all to see. "It means cunnilingus, Mom." I say.


November 9, 1983

Mom makes pot roast and soft white cheesecake, the Saturday before my birthday.

Monday is my birthday.

As I jog with Penny in the morning, I think about the birthdays of my childhood. I do not remember specific parties or presents, but I remember that birthday feeling of remarkably emotional fragility.

At noon, I walk into work. Nobody sings and nobody says obligatory Happy Birthdays in horrendous high pitch apologetic voices.
"Oh! It's your birthday? Happy Birthday!"
"It's your birthday? Happy Birthday."
"Yeah, thanks."
"I didn't know that! Happy Birthday."
It is always a chain reaction of blush and retreat. Therefore, I keep my birthday a secret.

After work, I pull into our dark driveway, disappointed. There are no balloons on the mailbox and no parked cars of friends. I don't need a surprise party, I tell myself. I just had a wedding for selfish's sake and before that a surprise wedding shower was thrown for me. I don't need a surprise party.

I don't want a surprise party.
A couple friends. A couple friends with a cake would be nice. No, I don't need that. It's Monday night. My friends are tired and so am I.

I don't want to see anyone anyway.

Maybe Scott got me a cupcake or something.

But Scott hasn't any baked goods for me. When I get home, he is working silently at the desk. I make his lunch for the next day and ignore the dishes in the sink.

Later I lay in bed speechlessly disappointed that my night has reflected the normalcy of my day. I haven't blown out any candles, I think regretfully.

I have to wish something, don't I?

I thought I had outgrown it, but I haven't and I don't expect I will. Forever on the evening of my birthdays, I will hope for the lights to be dimmed and for my mother to walk out of the kitchen with a birthday cake covered in brightly burning candles.

Tonight, Tuesday night, I am drinking a beer, eating two bowls of popcorn and lighting candles.

I'll make a wish when I go to bed.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Little Match Girl

I leave to buy wine and wooden matches because he has fallen asleep again and friends are coming over for dinner.

I leave so that he
will call and irrationally yell at me for disappearing.

These are my thoughts.
These are my actual thoughts.

Scott does not call because Scott is not an emotionally abusive husband. He is an incredibly reasonable young man and an incredibly exhausted young teacher on a Friday afternoon.

Do I wish for an abusive marriage
like I once naively wished for an abusive childhood?


I used to daydream about being an orphan. Not because I didn't like my family. I loved my family, but I also loved the idea of a childhood drenched with tears, hunger pains, and adventures.

My favorite book was called The Little Match Girl. It was the story of a young girl who runs away from home in freezing winter weather with only a box of matches to keep her warm. She dies alone on the street.

Secretly, I was jealous of the little match girl's fascinatingly sad story.

Years later, there is still little struggle in my life. I struggle occasionally with depression, loneliness and a simple satisfaction for life, but I do not need matches to survive.

I only need matches for ambiance.

When I return home an hour and a half later, Scott had just woken up from his nap. He isn't yelling. He's smiling. And so am I, r
elieved that tragedy has only struck my imagination and not my reality.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Coffee stains my fat yellow mug with dried dark brown drip stains. I drink it anyway.

I should start my day, but I sit here stalling like a nine-year old who's too tired to admit that it's time to go to bed.

Stubborn little shit.
Brush your teeth.
Don't forget your back teeth.
And wash behind your ears with soap and a washcloth.

You smell.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I am surrounded by swearing, cell phone flipping, children.

There is a girl in front of me saying to the tearfully, embarrassed girl behind me. 
"You're going to become best friends with her. We were in a fight once too and now we're like best friends."

"Yeah right."

Then the girl who has started this scuff stands and walks toward us, her suburban white posse crowding behind her.

"What are you guys doing over here? Leave me alone!"

"The soccer team isn't going to miss you, ya know."

"Shut up."
The group walks away toward the bake sale in the lobby.

"Hey ah what'd you forget your balls or something at home?" An insignificant freshmen boy sitting in front of me says. No one pays him any attention, but me. I almost kick his seat and say,"cut the shit, kid,but I don't.

This is all during intermission for the dance competition Scott has been invited to judge at school.

During the dance show, there are dance acts of all kinds.

One girl in a baseball cap, baggy jeans and big colorful high top sneakers, dances hip hop alone, "Doin' the only thing she's good at." 

I watch her do the only thing she thinks she's good at and imagine her practicing alone in her bedroom, dreaming of winning the competition.

Then there are the girls who have been dancing since they were two, probably in studios with surrounding mirrors, spandex and wishings to become the next Brittney Spears. And I watch these fifteen-year-old girls dance for Scott and think, where's your poll, ya' little ho? And while the audience roars with pleasure, I wonder how many sophomore boners are in the audience. Terrible really. The best dancer wins. She has the best hair, the shortest shorts, the sparkliest tank tops and the best thrusting moves. 

In the car, I say, "Oh come on, you didn't feel at all uncomfortable that these girls were dancing in front of you like that? Young high school girls?"
Scott is appalled. "No! I watched them like I would have watched a scene or a song. I watched to see the art they were doing and I judged them on how well they did their art and the girl who won was good and she clearly was enjoying dancing."

"Of course she was, the whole school was cheering her on!"

We fight a little bit; laugh a lot and then we go out for ice cream in Northampton.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Breaking Point

"I have been waiting for my break." I tell him.

I really thought something would happen when I graduated from college. That I would be discovered in New York City. That an agent would look past my terror and inability to dress myself. That a director would look past my sudden amnesia for the lines I had memorized for his audition and think: "I'll bet she's a great actress. I am going to hire her."

But that, of course, did not happen.

After one year, I did not become the next Katherine Hepburn. I became timidly negative.

We moved from New York City and like a stubborn friend, I have not been back to visit.

I tell this to Scott, even though he knows it. "Now, I hope the same for my writing" but my past failures keep flicking at my ears until they are red.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hello Penny

I drive to the Springfield animal shelter alone. I have heard that it is a kill shelter and so with that menacingly in mind, I walk around staring at every dog, knowing I could take any of them home.

I ask the red faced woman behind the front desk if I can see one of them. She walks up to the glass I am pointing to and says, 
"Oh yeah, her, she has a strange medical history. I'm her foster mom. She doesn't like babies, dogs and most people."

"Ok..." This woman does not want to part with her dog. I think, while she walks back to the front desk.

Then I see another pup. "Has Nicole been adopted?" I ask.

"A guy applied for her yesterday, but he had to talk to his girlfriend about it." The guy behind the desk explains.

"The WOMAN?" The red faced lady asks in an awkward attempt to be funny.

"Huh? Yeah... He was supposed to call me back today, but he hasn't yet. Do you want to see her?"

"Sure! Thanks."

I am escorted to a small room with three chairs, while Nicole is fetched for me. Led in on a florescent pink leash, Nicole walks to me and sweetly smells my outstretched hands. When I bend down close to her, she sniffs my ear and licks my cheek.

Yep, I want her.

A few minutes later, I walk her to the front desk and fill out an adoption application to be next in line. 

"I'll be back later." I tell them.

And I sit in the car waiting for Scott to arrive. I read my book in the twenty five minutes of waiting, but turn my head to watch people walking into the shelter more than I turn the pages of my book.

Scott meets Nicole and loves her as quickly as I knew he would.

We take her home the following day.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Ring Story, Part II

Photo by: Patrick Cummings

Yesterday, while the weather acted like a temperamental toddler, I walked into our local Volvo dealership office. An older gentleman stood there and smiled for me to explain what I needed.
"How much would it cost for you to take out my passenger-side seat?"


"-Ok, I'll tell you why. I got married last Saturday and ON.OUR.WAY. to our honeymoon, my husband was playing with his ring and it fell off of his finger. We're pretty sure it fell down the hole where the seat is bolted in, but we can't reach far enough to get it."
The old man behind the counter chuckled with me.
"I told him to stop playing with it!"

"It'll cost a half an hour's labor. So about $40."

I handed over my bundle of keys and waited in the waiting room reading about racist babies in Newsweek. When the seat was out of the car, I was retrieved and escorted to the garage. The old mechanic shined a light into the hole, while another old man mechanic pulled up the center console, while I stood there hoping for shiny news. After a few minutes of digging his fingers under the car's carpet, I heard,
"A-ha! I see it!"

He handed me the ring and I shoved it onto my thumb. Then I jumped up and down with my arms flaring like an idiot.
"yay! yay!!!"
I just kept saying "yay."

The other mechanics in the garage saw me in my delight and smiled.
One guy hollered from the back room.
"That'll cost you $300!"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Back in real life, bills need to be paid, the heat needs to be fixed  and our employers expect our return and this sudden separation invites loneliness to creep in like a hungry, homeless puppy on our back porch.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

6 AM

photo by: Scott Braidman

It is the early morning of my wedding. My sister shifts beside me. I ask if she is awake, but she doesn't stir again. I roll over, pulling and pushing my eyelids to reach one another, but they refuse, popping open like compressed springs. I recite the alphabet and count fat sheep as they hobble over my mind’s makeshift picket fence. 

At 7AM, I get out of bed and slip down the stairs to my parents' room. "I'm too excited to sleep!" I whisper. My father chuckles a hoarse, crusty murmur and pulls back the fluffy white comforter. I jump in, feet first. "You're not going to go back to sleep." My mother tells my closed eyes. She's right. I’m going to lay amongst feathers, cotton, familiar skin and morning breath, giggling about the day we are about to turn into memory.

My Wedding Vows

Photo by: Patrick Cummings

I promise to only make promises that I can keep.

I promise to pickpocket moments with pictures and stories.

I promise we will explore and enjoy life as ignorantly as two children in a beached rowboat.

I promise we will make mistakes and eat them anyway.

I promise we will pursue happiness in open fields and on open highways.

I promise to keep you on your toes like a blistered ballerina.


I promise to say inappropriate things.

I promise we will laugh every day, at least once.

I promise we will be dancing every day until the hum of our heart strings eventually fades.

I promise you will be loved every day, even if I forget to say it.

I promise to be as sappy as a maple tree, but as solid as oak.

I promise to make the apartment smell like bacon every now and then.

I promise to hug you hard.

I promise to keep friends with you as well as enjoy solitude with you.

I promise to walk dogs with you and I promise to make babies with you.

I promise to support you like a foundation made of bricks, pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream.
I promise you this because you are the yellow porch light at the end of a dark driveway. Because you take my breath away like bicycling downhill. Because to me, you are the moment a kite catches the wind. You are my Ricky Ricardo, my Buster Keaton, my Frank Sinatra.

You are my husband, Scott, my hubs.
And I promise to love you as long as I live.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Three Days

Tonight, I read him my vows. He stares at me smiling. He reads me his vows and I watch him, weeping.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Cosmetic Store

A skinny slightly scary stranger with a thick coating of makeup on her own face, paints my cheeks and asks,  
"Do you exfoliate?"


"You really need to exfoliate."


"See here, you have some discoloration."

After a half an hour, she brings me to "The Eye Expert."

"Are you sure this is the right foundation for you?"

"I have to exfoliate."

"Oh yeah, yeah you really do, you really need to exfoliate."

"Yeah, she told me."

She paints one eye purple. I look like I have a black eye.

"I'm afraid, the bright purple eye liner with my goldish dress will make me look like a clown."

Oh shit.

"You think I made you look like a clown?"

"No that's not what I mean, I mean the purple and gold colors are clownish. Sometimes. No, I don't think I look like a clown."

"There are going to be pictures of you and if you don't have enough color, you're going to look washed out."

"Ok yeah, I like it."

"What do you want to buy? I don't work on commission, but I think you really need eye cream. What I always say when someone says they don't use eye cream, I say, so you want wrinkles?
At the counter, I am asked if I found everything I was looking for.

"Do you have makeup remover wipes?"

The Taming of the Shrew

With no money, we rehearse. With little money, we find costumes, lights and buy old rickety apple crates. We ask for donations. With some money, we put on the show.

The bugs are sprayed away, the rain hides in far away clouds and the beer is cheep. The cast carries the audience from the barren dirt stage to the streets of post World War II Italy.

After the show, everyone gathered. "I understood it and I never get Shakespeare" is carried from one lightning bug to the next.

Monday, September 14, 2009


We dance in the living room. He leads and I follow. He spins me around and around and around until he can’t take it anymore and lets go of my hand. "Where are you going?" I ask. 

From the bed, he says, "I can't take it, you're so happy and I don't know what to do with it. What if you're never this happy again? It was like I was watching you from a memory. I don't know how to deal with the passage of time."

I lay beside him. "That's why people have cameras. It’s why I like writing. To record memories before I lose them. You need to write songs again."
For two weeks he has been stuffing and squeezing every thought and emotion into a hidden closet and because he didn't tell me where the closet was hidden, I opened it accidentally and everything spilled out at once.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


With terrorized trepidation, I tread through the brush, expecting a bear behind every branch. Branches crack to my left. My eyes roll quietly to look. Oh shit. It's a bear.
It's a fucking brown bear. Why isn't he moving?

He still isn't moving.

WHY ISN'T HE MOVING?  Oh. It's a tree stump. It's a fucking tree stump.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Grocer

An old professor of mine carries his groceries toward me. "Raaaachel, what are you doing here?"

"Working." I say with a smile as I gather paper bags to busy my fidgeting fingers. Obviously.

Three years ago, I graduated and moved to New York City. Three months ago, I moved back to this place where the sky is not interrupted by cement and brick, but by black crows and mountains.

When my professor leaves, I nearly cry from shame, but then I remember that I am happy and this job is temporary.