fiction and travel

People You Loved Who Weren’t Me

The morning you left me forever, you asked me what I wanted for breakfast – eggs, bagels, toast, yogurt, mangos, orange juice, tea? – and I couldn’t decide so you made everything and I ate and drank every last drop you offered. I must’ve known that I would never get anything from you again. After breakfast, I skipped home and texted at least three people about our reconciliation. I was so happy for those two blocks.

You read me stories and poems about people you loved who were not me and it made me love you even more, so I wrote too and filled whole books with the words you never felt because I thought if I stopped, even for a minute, the loss would become unbearable.

At the tacky Christmas sweater party, I took pictures of you looking in every direction except towards me. You wore a dark blue sweater that you often wore that wasn’t remotely tacky and when you left that night without touching me, with all the other guests, I jingled the bells attached to the cats holding Christmas presents on my sweater and burst into tears…

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Good Migrations

Hania, Crete

“We stood on the bank of the river under the trees and promised the nothing that was there, the nothing that made us, the nothing that was listening, that we truly desired to go beyond ourselves.”

And I think, I want to love from nothing, create from nothing, to dizzy myself on the craggy beaches of foreign isles, pummeled by wild fennel and basil in this great amazing nothing. And I will know that nothing will ever stay the same because it can’t stay the same. I will change and she will change and maybe the laws will even change, but our love, this great act, will stand stubborn as the ruins at Olympian Temples, even when it’s rubble, even when it’s bone dry brittle and carried off in pieces by wind and birds. We will carve our names into the sea and become everywhere. This is the only thing that matters – not tax benefits and pieces of paper with official-looking fonts. It’s only salt and sea and herbs and sky. Continue reading…

Greek Face

As if a 5-week, 5-country journey weren’t enough to satiate me, I’ve been prolonging a somewhat lazy fascination with travel by reading about it. I almost bought an Alain de Botton book in Romania, but it was like 8,000 lira (lei? leva? I don’t even remember the currency anymore), and it was all about working, which seemed like a really masochistic thing to be reading about while on vacation, so I bought Neil Gaiman instead and for the rest of the trip thought there were demons in the bus terminals. But at least I wasn’t thinking about work. Except I was, still, despite being sometimes surrounded by six-thousand year old ruins, beaches as white as cane sugar and water so clear I could see the hundreds of tiny fish swimming around what would have been my ankles had the sight of them not propelled me out of the water immediately because I don’t want fish touching me. Gross. Continue reading…

That’s what you get for waking up in Vegas

I love the desert. I want my periphery to always be at least 2/3rds sky. Want the blues to be so bright they burn and the brittle brush to crack the world right open. The desert sighs, its bald mountains fold me up and a thousand balloons release inside my chest. It makes me feel like I’m applauding an empty stadium. And I do it gladly. But eventually the fanfare and vast expanse of nothingness give way to kitsch and kachina dolls. We stopped at Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner for lunch, which was advertised for about 50 miles with signs like “Come see our diner-saur park! We now have a Stegasaurus and King Kong.”

In Arizona, we passed the Navajo reservation – “the world’s largest reservation” advertised the signs, as if it were a contest or a resort. It made me think of what Sherman Alexi once said about reservations. “If poverty were a skyscraper, then reservations would be in the basement. You can’t get much poorer.” And I think also of the Yaqui rez in Tucson, where my mom worked for so many years. I would visit her and all the grandmas would call me Little White Girl in Spanish and offer me red chili burritos. Dogs ran around everywhere; no one knew who they belonged to. And the houses had no doors and even though the streets seemed to spill over with life, a sense of abandonment pervaded. Continue reading…

Moriarty, New Mexico

I can’t say that I blame them for wanting to live the country life, even though Moriarty is so depressing it makes me want to stab something. Also, I’m a city girl. I prefer my nature to be in documentaries. But my mom takes full advantage of the extra labor when I’m here, so I spend a lot of time picking raspberries and grapes and apples, harvesting sunflower seeds and preparing to run like hell if I ever see a snake. It sounds horrible, right? Picking fresh fruit and herbs! What kind of mother does that? The thing is that there are WORMS in the sunflowers and CRICKETS on the grapes and as I reached for an apple, I stepped in the dogs’ WATER BOWL. That would never happen if I was inside, hiding safely behind a laptop. Neither would this frightening sight. Continue reading…