split peas

Sara tries to forget her nightmare.

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In the early hours of morning, the smallest birds awake for a while, Sara tries to forget her nightmare.

She sits on her step smoking. Watching the coal brighten in the slightest wind.

Sara can’t put her finger on how, but cigarettes help her breathe. Not the ten thousand chemicals. The nicotine. The burning and inhaling of pure tobacco.

She apologizes to the chickadees as her toxic blue curls float toward their nest. She apologizes to her neighbors who might half wake and stumble for their own hidden packs.

Sara sends explanations for her bad behavior on the gentle streams. Hoping that one day she will be blessed with enough courage and peace to quit.

Jackpot

Amber was a fat child.

Amber was a fat child. (I know – who cares. Every child was fat or buck toothed or ugly in some way.)

One day when Amber was playing alone outside, a group of older kids stopped to talk.

She was crouched down over the cap of a water pipe. She looked up when one girl called out in a way that sounded kind.

“What are you doing?”

Shrug. “Exploring, I guess.”

Older girls always seemed so cool in skinny acid wash and pale blue eyeshadow.

The girl with the sweet voice asked Amber what she thought was down there.

She shrugged. The fun was in imagining the possibilities. Anything could be down there.

“We’re not supposed to say, but there’s a whole shit load of candy down there.”

Amber’s eyes lit up. That was the best news ever. “Really?”

“Ya!” The older girl elbowed her friends who nodded on cue.

The one with the biggest earrings said, “It’s a big secret so all the kids don’t get together to break the cap off. Every kind of candy you can imagine. Pop Rocks, Nerds, Tootsie Rolls, Oh Henry Bars.”

Amber felt happier than she had in months.

“Good luck getting the cap off, though,” said Kind Voice, “it’s on there tight.”

“I’ll figure it out. I’m really smart.”

“We can tell. That’s why we told you the secret.”

offerings

Astrid wears a homemade Jake Gyllenhaal t-shirt when she’s scared

Astrid wears a homemade Jake Gyllenhaal t-shirt when she’s scared and alone during thunderstorms. She named all four of her stuffed animals Jake.

She told me this and I laughed. My first thought was, You’re fucked up.

On the way home that night, I saw a couple in the window of a pizzeria. They had their fingers laced. He was all over her. She was feeding him a slice of sloppy, greasy donair.

A retch came up fast from my midstomach. It cast an echo against the glass. But they didn’t look up. I watched as she laughed so hard that cream sauce sprayed onto his shirt.

I waited to see what he would do. Yell. Jump up and back away. He would take off his shirt and throw it on the floor. This girl was obviously drunk. Nobody is that fucking happy sober.

No.

He looked down and laughed. He pulled her closer. He wiped the grease off her lips. He kissed her. They looked into each other’s eyes when the quick kiss was done.

Boring. I turned away and continued walking through the afterbar crowds.

Why did Astrid tell me that?

I would never reveal anything so embarrassing.