Photo by Jorge Santiago

The Ism and the Alcohol

A year and a half ago, I published my first essay on addiction. You’d think having gotten sober at age seventeen would have been fodder for plenty of personal essays, but it took me twelve years to start writing about alcoholism and sobriety. Even then, that first piece did not show me drinking or using, or even considering drinking or using. Instead, the piece ... [Continue Reading]

Day16_Crow

In the Form of Birds

The summer my father died I bought a book on Southwestern birds. It was he who had given me my first feeder on my 8th birthday, back when we lived in New Orleans. He’d gotten the bird-feeding bug, I’m guessing, from his mother. At his parents’ house in Springfield, Pennsylvania, there was one of those open platforms—a plywood landing about six feet high. My ... [Continue Reading]

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Lives and Past Lives

1. I’ve always loved walking at night. I’ll go anywhere: through the neighborhoods of small towns, through a dozen identical suburbs, through seedy Pittsburgh neighborhoods and seedier Latin American cities. In any location, the impulse is the same: I walk at night to look into the lighted windows of strangers. At night, windows roll by like stills on a film reel, ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Richard BH

Lilac Stitches

I met my future stepmother in a Leningrad subway when I was eight. Luda was a twenty-year-old transplant from a small Ukrainian town, painted with shiny scarlet lipstick and heavy eyeliner and hanging out with her best friend, prowling for adventure and male generosity. Instead of finding easy fun, she got hit on by a single father in a fake fur coat, thirty-five kopecks ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by Graham Reznick

Face

It was a ritual Biko and I had performed thousands of times over the last five years, so I had no reason to think that December evening would be any different. We had just returned home from a walk when he nudged my knee with his long snout and flopped to the floor, legs akimbo, his white, furry belly turned to the ceiling. Scratch my tummy, please. Since I had first met ... [Continue Reading]

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An Unwanted Guest

I didn’t see the jellyfish, but I felt it—a searing pain at my ankle that shot up through my leg, bringing me, in a matter of seconds, to my knees in the sand. I looked down and saw its limp, blue body floating away from me down the rivulet I’d stumbled into when the sand along its border collapsed under my step. The creature had gripped me with its tentacles for ... [Continue Reading]

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Seeds

My grandfather lives among the trees. He is streaked with dirt, brown as a fallen acorn. When he walks, the leaves bend under his feet. Years ago, he kept caged pigeons in his garden. In the morning, he would jangle their cage to announce himself. The garden is his domain, and everything in it his subjects. Out there, we know not to tangle or disturb. We are visitors. ... [Continue Reading]

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The Journey in the Song

"But what can be the shared space of meaning and sound?" Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening "All I've got to put in a song is my own experience,” Leonard Cohen once said, speaking about the process of songwriting. But as a listener, you could invert the sentiment, too: all I've got to get out of a song is my own experience. I remember my mother driving me to school when I ... [Continue Reading]

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My Husband Travels

It was eight minutes before the taxi arrived to take my husband to the airport. We were in the bathroom, throwing toiletries into a tartan sponge bag. “Here’s your glasses cloth,” I said, treading carefully. “I’ve washed it for you. Your glasses look so much better when they’re clean.” That was it. In a last minute panic, he hit the roof. “Shut up, ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: ...storrao...

Travels with Carly

“I’m pregnant,” Carly said.  It was only 7 a.m. in Australia and her voice was still raspy. In my Skype box, she looked tired but happy – and totally unruffled – as she followed one confounding statement with another. “And I’m getting married.” “You’re joking,” I said. “I mean… You’re not serious. Are you serious? You can’t be ... [Continue Reading]