one act: cravings

Rosie, age 8. Miriam, age 35. Glen, age 33. The three sit around the dinner table, large platters of home-cooked food in the center. It is not a formal dining room, rather the family table in the kitchen. 

ROSIE: (digging into her plate with abandon) MMMMMM. YUMMMM. (chomping) OOOOHHH MMMM.

MIRIAM: Calm down, baby.

ROSIE: What?

MIRIAM: You're making a lot of noise. Just eat.

ROSIE: I kept my mouth closed.

MIRIAM: I know, but you are moaning. Just slow it down.

ROSIE: (confused) OK mom. Sorry. (looks down at her plate, deflated).

GLEN: (picks up his plate, clean, and licks Italian dressing from the surface) Good food, honey. Thanks. 

Glen gets up from the table, makes a nondescript cough sound as he surveys the table and leaves the room. Rosie's stare is fixed on Glen's plate in a "we can do that?" way. Miriam stares straight forward, jaw clenched.

--

Rosie, age 17. Miriam, age 44. Glen, age 42. Midday, Miriam is cooking that night's dinner in the kitchen.

ROSIE: Mom, I'm hungry. When is this gonna be ready?

MIRIAM: It's four o'clock. It'll be ready by dinner. Six?

ROSIE: uggghhhhh

MIRIAM: I can put together the salad early if you want to eat some of that.

ROSIE: (rummaging through the pantry) Nah, it's fine.... I can wa-- 

Rosie finds a bag of nacho cheese Doritos in the pantry and Miriam tenses at the crunching sound of the bag before she even sees it. Rosie emerges from behind the cabinet door with one hand all the way inside the chip bag. She shuts the pantry with her elbow and walks to the refrigerator. 

MIRIAM: Don't eat that, baby. Wait two hours for dinner.

ROSIE: I'm not gonna eat a lot I just want like two.

MIRIAM: Then get a bowl and put two chips in it. And put the bag away.

ROSIE: MOM OH MY GOD. It's not a big deal! 

Rosie storms out of the kitchen, bag in hand. Miriam puts a lid on her bubbling pot and wipes her hands on a kitchen towel. Glen walks into the kitchen with a bag of cool ranch Doritos. He walks to the garbage can and steps on the pedal, the top flips up. He shakes the bag overhead, crumbs falling into his open mouth. When empty, he tosses the bag in the trash and wipes his hands on his jeans. On his way out of the kitchen he looks over Miriam's shoulder at the pot.

GLEN: Oo, looks good.

MIRIAM: I wish you wouldn't buy that shit. It's bad for both of you.

GLEN: I get them for everyone! You like chips too.

MIRIAM: No. I don't. I never eat any of that.

GLEN: (seems genuinely surprised) Huh. Exits.

-- 

Kitchen table, midday. Rosie is sitting in a chair with a book and a pad of paper. Miriam walks in and heads to the sink, pours a glass of water from the faucet. She notices dishes in the sink.

MIRIAM: Rosie, what are you working on.

ROSIE: I don't really feel like telling you.

MIRIAM: Excuse me?

ROSIE: I don't need your help with this.

MIRIAM: (stunned, angry) That's not what I asked you. What is that?

ROSIE: That's an invasion of my privacy.

MIRIAM: Do you want to watch my hand slap you in the face? That would be very invading. 

ROSIE: Moooooom, stop. Whatever. It's grandma's Weight Watchers book. 

MIRIAM: What?

ROSIE: I went to grandma's last night and she let me borrow her points book. I can have 18 points a day and I'm writing out what I can eat. So like, I can have a bagel for breakfast. And then I can have a dry package of Ramen and a Diet Coke at lunch. Diet Coke is zero points so I can have however many of those. Then I can get a cherry limeade and fries at Sonic before rehearsal. And then I'll have like six points for dinner when I get home.

MIRIAM: So this book is telling you to watch your weight by eating french fries and Diet Coke?

ROSIE: No, mom. It tells you how to lose weight no matter what you eat. That's just the stuff I'll probably want to eat.

MIRIAM: You don't need that book, baby. Let me cook dinner for you at night and you can take some leftovers for lunch to school. I don't know about points but I know you will be healthy if you eat what I make. 

ROSIE: Yea mom, I don't know how many points are in the food you cook. It's easier to just eat the brand name stuff they have in the book cause then you know. 

MIRIAM: I guess this is how they make their money. From telling you to eat junk. (starts to wash dishes) This stuff is just ridiculous to me. When I was a kid I didn't have bread to put in my mouth. I had to walk for twenty minutes to get it from the baker and after everyone else got their hands on it, I never tasted it. If I bit a piece of cucumber my mom was chopping for the salad I had a knife in my face.

ROSIE: I don't even understand what that means. This is why I didn't want to talk to you about it.

MIRIAM: Me and my sister would have one plate to share and I let her have everything because she was younger than me.

ROSIE: That doesn't make any sense. If she was younger than you she could probably eat less food and be okay.

MIRIAM: You don't understand what I mean. I'm saying that food is fuel. You put it in your body so you have energy to do things. If you eat soda and junk it's bad for you even if it's the right points.

ROSIE: I don't feel that way about food. I like to enjoy it.

MIRIAM: Let me show you how I cook the osh (farsi for soup) tonight and you can look up what's in it and come up with the points. 

ROSIE: Yea, um. That's a lot of work and I have to run lines with Will. He's gonna be here in a second.

MIRIAM: Why are you counting these points? To lose weight?

ROSIE: Yeah, before the show. I want to fit into this dress in the costume shop and the other one that fits is ugly.

MIRIAM: Bring the dress home and I'll fix it for you.

ROSIE: Yea, it doesn't really work like that. I have to go.

Rosie gets up from the table, collects her things and heads to the door. 

MIRIAM: If you think you're going to walk out of that door without giving me a hug and saying goodbye you are really stupid.

ROSIE: OKAY MOM I HAVE TO GO. 

Rosie gives Miriam an obligatory hug and walks out.

-- 

Rosie, 19. She is leaving a super store at what appears to be late night with a few friends. 

ROSIE: Oh my god guys. You wouldn't even understand the way I grew up. My mom wouldn't let me have any junk food. We never went out. She cooked every night. If I ate like one cookie she'd freak out.

KASEY: Dude I know. My mom is always telling me to lose weight.

ROSIE: Oh it wasn't really like that. She didn't care about how I looked, she just hates junk food. She's foreign so she thinks you have to cook everything.

ALYSSA: Sounds nice. My mom literally never cooked. I had cereal for dinner, like, every night. 

ROSIE: I'm gonna call her right now and tell her I just bought ice cream to eat at midnight!

Rosie gets out her cell phone and dials Miriam. Miriam picks up, we hear her voice.

MIRIAM: (groggy) Baby? Are you ok? I was asleep. What's wrong?

ROSIE: Oh, sorry. I was just calling to tell you that I'm leaving the store and I just bought a gallon of ice cream. And I'm gonna eat it as soon as I get back to my dorm.

MIRIAM: That's why you called me?

ROSIE: Yea! Cause I'm in college now and can do that if I want.

MIRIAM: Why did you need to tell me about it?

ROSIE: I just thought it was funny.

MIRIAM: You are an idiot. (hangs up)

KASEY: What did she say?

ROSIE: Hah, she was so pissed. 

Kasey and Alyssa walk ahead and Rosie lags a step or two behind. She looks at the grocery bag of ice cream and rolls her eyes at herself. 

-- 

Rosie, age 28. Miriam, age 55. They are in a new living room, smaller, like an apartment. Rosie shuffles around the kitchen while Miriam sits on the floor and mindlessly picks particles from the carpet and gathers them in a pile on the coffee table. Mark, Rosie's husband, sits on the sofa.

MIRIAM: There's a lot of shit on your carpet, baby. You need to vacuum. 

ROSIE: (quietly) Ok, cool, thanks mom. 

MIRIAM: (to Mark) I have to get you the vacuum cleaner I have. It works really good. It's not cheap, but it's much better than the other piece of crap I was using.

MARK: That would be awesome.

ROSIE: (yelling now, from kitchen) We have a vacuum mom, okay? I'll vacuum tonight after you leave if that makes you happy.

MIRIAM: I'm sure you vacuum. I'm just saying these ones they make now are just pieces of garbage. Don't suck worth a damn. I need to bring mine over so you can see.

ROSIE: Okay, guys. Dinner is ready. (she walks to the coffee table with two plates of food.)

MARK: Smells good, babe. Thanks for cooking.

MIRIAM: You're lucky, girl. Your dad never said a word about anything I cooked. One time I asked him if he liked his dinner and he said, "I ate it, didn't 1?"

MARK: (laughing) He didn't say that.

MIRIAM: Swear to god.

Rosie leaves two plates on the table and walks away with attitude when Miriam mentions her dad. She returns with a third plate for herself and sits on the floor opposite of Miriam and Mark to eat. The trio start working on dinner.

MIRIAM: This is very good. You were always very into food. Mark, even when she was really little she would make these loud noises when she ate. Moaning like sex noises.

MARK: Hah, really?

MIRIAM: I had to tell her to calm down before she passed out!

ROSIE: I like food. I like cooking. It's fun for me.

MIRIAM: You can pay so much attention to a recipe and I don't like to read them. I just make whatever I learned to cook from my mom and my aunts.

ROSIE: Well, you eat food for fuel, right?

MIRIAM: What?

ROSIE: You don't care how it tastes because it's just for energy to do things. You told me that more than once growing up.

MIRIAM: I don't know. I just don't like to read from a book when I'm cooking. But you are very good at it. This is great, baby.

MARK: I'm so lucky. She loves to cook so I get something great every night.

MIRIAM: Did your mom cook growing up?

MARK: Um, yea sometimes. We definitely did a lot of fast food. If she cooked it was usually one or two things like spaghetti or nachos. Easy stuff. She didn't like to cook very much.

MIRIAM: Well I cooked every night. That was just the only way I knew.

MARK: I guess that's where Rosie learned it!

ROSIE: (to Miriam) Can you please brush that pile of crumbs off the table?

MIRIAM: No, I just spent half an hour picking it up because your vacuum doesn't work.

ROSIE: Oh yea, I forgot.

my cup

A cup. Honestly, it is very ordinary. Glass. Ten ounces, maybe. It feels good in my hand. It has weight. Sturdy. 

I find it chipped one morning. I open the cupboard and reach for it as always, for a glass of water. A glint of light scatters the wrong direction as I place it on the counter and only then I see the edge damaged so slightly. I look around but can't find the shard. I use it still, avoiding that side of the rim where it will cut my lip if I am not careful, but I am very careful. I can be careful with it from now on.

I step on the piece later. The piece from my cup that was broken and missing. It is small, translucent. It should be harmless, but it startles me as it digs in my heel. I grab my foot and lift it to watch a drop of blood run and fall. Just one drop. A single spot on the tile. I wipe it away but rust color stains the grout in one, tiny place. I feel embarrassed and stupid for loving this broken cup. For keeping a chipped cup when I have lots of cups, at least two dozen other cups in the cupboard. This one is my favorite.

Another day I wash the cup I still use out of habit or persistence. I want to tell you that I place it carefully in the sink. It's important to me that you know I am careful and that I keep my word. Tiny suds slide down the edges as I rinse off other dishes. I run the cup under the flow of water and as the bubbles wash away, I see a crack. A hairline fissure from midway to the chip, like a stream of refracted light opening up to the sea. I hold the cup very close to my face as if this investigation will solve a crime. "I was very careful." My testimony does not change the cup's condition. I hold the cup under the faucet until full and place it on the counter. A tiny pool gathers around the base and my cup does not hold water. I empty it all into the sink and wipe it gently with a cloth. I put it on the windowsill before me and watch the sunlight illuminate the injury. It lives here now, the cup, on the sill. I use it for a flower or two I cut from the garden, half an inch of water in the bottom under the crack. It's still good for that.

I come home to find the cup on the counter, fallen from its post due to a shudder of thunder from a storm, maybe. Or a knock at the window? It was not me, I am more cautious than that. The cup is split in three. The heavy disc of the base and two semi-circles. Two crescent moons rocking back and forth with jagged edges. I collect my cup and deliver it to the coffee table on a kitchen towel. I flip on the light and rummage through the junk drawer for the crusty tube of superglue I know I have and have had since the first day I had drawers. I don't remember if it's always been the same one, but there is always one there whether I buy two or lose four. It doesn't matter, one persists. I pry the end of a safety pin down the clogged nozzle until a rush of sticky liquid bubbles at the tip. I carry it to the cup and clumsily squeeze glue over every newly cracked edge. I press three pieces together to recreate the whole, the seams ooze liquid. New permanent drips harden down the side. It needs to dry and I stretch a rubber band around the circumference to hold my cup for an hour or two. When I return the cup is solid once again, but the rubber band is fixed as well. A new addition to the life of the cup that must persist, I guess, since it's stuck and holding everything together. I return it to the windowsill but it won't keep any water so it lives on to hold my vegetable peeler. I never kept my vegetable peeler on the windowsill before and suppose it is not important to do so, but the cup can handle it and I want the cup to serve a purpose. It was and still is my favorite cup.

I knock the cup over when I reach for the peeler. I pull it too quickly and the very end catches the rim of the cup and sends it crashing to the floor. I jump backward and survey a thousand tiny shards of glass. I think I see them all and when I kneel down closer I find more. Under the refrigerator. One has traveled to the living room - I spy it only when I rest my temple to the ground and view the whole room on a horizontal. I pick up several pieces and collect them in my palm. One pokes me a bit and there is blood. I drop the pieces in a pile and press a paper towel into my hand. I get a broom and sweep all the pieces together, but I step on several I could not and would not see and I leave half-footprints of blood in a trail map that leads to where I'm standing now.

This is a mess. This isn't worth one bit of the trouble. I have two dozen other cups. I could have thrown the cup away when it was chipped. I definitely should have thrown it away when it split in three. Now it is completely beyond repair and it's in more pieces than I can count and they're all cutting me or somewhere hidden, waiting to cut me. I am exhausted with this. I'm talking to myself.

I leave the blood and the glass exactly where it is and go to bed. I wake up the next morning and head straight out the door and order coffee at the shop around the corner and have lunch delivered to the office. I meet friends out for drinks after work and decide to eat bar food somewhere, I don't remember, late. I spend the night at a friend's house. I dress for work with the dry cleaning I had in my backseat. I order coffee again. I skip breakfast.

I come home a few days later and avoid the kitchen on my way upstairs. I order delivery on my phone. I watch a show on my laptop in bed.

No matter how long I wait, the cup is still on my kitchen floor in pieces. It doesn't disappear or clean itself. I know that won't happen, but still. 

Maybe a week passes? It could be almost two. I walk downstairs in the middle of the night and sleepily head to the cupboard to get a glass of water. I step on a shard. This glass is still here. All of it is still broken and lying on my floor. I rest my head on the countertop, my arms drape over cookbooks and a stack of unopened mail. "This could go on forever," I tell myself.

I flip on the light and find the dustpan under the sink. I sweep, then wet a rag and run it over the tile to catch any pieces too small to see in the dark with bleary eyes. I spray cleaner on my bloody footprints and scrub them away. I toss it all in the garbage and it's done. I take five steps away from the kitchen and turn around - I realize it could be even more done. I knot up the top of the trash bag, slide on my clogs and walk the bag to my bin on the street. As I walk back inside and lock the door behind me, it is actually done. 

"What a completely unnecessary pain in the ass," I scold myself as I lie in bed. I have dreams that night about the cup even though I'm just immeasurably sick of the cup and want to drink only from disposable paper cups for the rest of my life. I dream the cup is in my cupboard, chipless and ordinary. One cup, unremarkable amongst two dozen others. It blends in and it isn't my favorite. It's just a cup and I don't notice if it is different from the rest or have a preference toward it. It doesn't break and I wouldn't care if it did. 

That isn't what happened, but that's what I dream about.

me too?

Does anyone really know or remember the first person who came onto them? I'm sincerely asking - maybe you do. I don't. I know from an early age the message to me (to girls) was that I would develop feelings for a boy and I'd have to combine the right proportions of charm, sexiness, beauty and wit to get him to trip on some metaphorical banana peel, fall face-first in a love puddle and jump up covered in love goo exclaiming, "WOW I JUST NOTICED I LOVE HER."

So, maybe someone came onto me. Subtly, without doing all of the above, and I didn't believe it or notice. Let's say my first Me Too was believing I would default as undesirable until explicitly, verbally pursued. I wasn't confident enough in my mind-reading skills to discern a come-on until interest was coupled with voiced affection and subsequent action. It doesn't surprise me, then, that women are so often knee-deep in a situation leading to assault before they have the instinct to get out. We are so trained to remember that men aren't paying mind to us until sexual tension is undeniably high or advances are made. And, for some men, the high stakes have nothing to do with love.

Throughout school; a smattering of memories. A boy I'd been friends with since kindergarten instant messaged me on AOL in ninth grade and used "I like your butt you have a good butt" as his first line. Bold as brass, these boys. I was in my basement slash gym room with my best friend Rachel, doubled over in laughter. Half surprised, half intrigued, the message hadn't included the most important information I'd need to know in order to respond: what does that mean? Could I like like this boy? Probably. I was fourteen. I would have been flattered that anyone liked me. I didn't know if "you have a good butt" meant he wanted to be my boyfriend, or if he was just sharing a bit of research he'd been working on. Rachel responded for me, "hehe." I don't think that was enough because the conversation dropped off. Had I embarrassed him? Really, what was I supposed to say? "I like your butt too?" I walked to the gym equipment and stepped on the stair master. "Does this make your butt look better?" I asked Rachel. I pressed the balls of my feet deeply into the pedals and walked until my legs started to burn. A butt could be an asset to me, apparently. Boys noticed it, though I never had until then. My next Me Too was learning that my body and what I did with it was an incredibly effective tool for eliciting praise.

My first boyfriend kissed me in my living room, while my parents were upstairs. I wanted to kiss him too, whole-heartedly. I had only been kissed once, and that was onstage for a play so it didn't count. I wanted to get my first real kiss under my belt before I turned sixteen. Before I was lame. Did you know people who have sexual encounters are cool and people who don't are lame? Get with it, y'all. We were watching Comedy Central - something he liked, I know, because I never watched it on my own. He leaned over on the sofa, planting his lips awkwardly on mine as Dane Cook chattered punchlines from the television. He laughed at a joke and it startled me. I didn't know what was funny because I hadn't been listening - he obviously was. I remember thinking, "You're not really paying attention to me sooooo that sucks." He plunged his tongue out and we kissed the way only children do - mouths open, tongues poking each other, no breathing, no breaks. We probably sat like that for twenty minutes until a stream of drool forced one of us to break the vacuum and wipe it away. Afterward, I felt obligated to be satisfied with the experience. I wouldn't get another first kiss, so I had to pleasantly arrange the highlights like a decorator shoving the sofa over a stain. That was a heavy Me Too - what happened with my body was more concrete history than how the experience felt. My sexual milestones were each on a checklist, quantity: one, and if they didn't unfold perfectly, well. Well.

That boyfriend staked claim on a few more of my milestones. A classic up-the-shirt boob grab in the backseat of his car, parked in my driveway. My dad caught us. Maybe you're laughing. I laughed about that for years. "Hahaha, don't we all have a back seat story?" Now that I'm a grown woman, I wonder why we do. My parents had seen us kiss inside the house - it wasn't forbidden. There was no necessary reason to make out in the back seat of his car. Only, it felt like a thing people did. It felt like I should do it too. I look back at my teenage self and lower my head with sympathy. I didn't want to discover my body there. I didn't want to feel a new rush of hormones coursing head to toe while laying on a three ring binder and an empty Zaxby's bag. No one forced me, but I should have forced myself to do better. Sexuality is vulnerable, uncharted territory when you're sixteen. You should make space for it, and make the space safe. In the back seat of his car, I taught my boyfriend how I expected to be treated. I taught him that pleasure isn't the kind of thing you have to plan for.

After we broke up, that boyfriend spent an afternoon at Mellow Mushroom telling our mutual male friends that my boobs were nothing compared to his new girlfriend's and that I never "mowed the lawn." I didn't know what that meant until someone else enlightened me. My mother was an Iranian immigrant, raised in a mangled mixture of pre-war European taste, then forced Islamic law. Neither are particularly interested in maintenance of pubic hair, for their own different reasons. I was mortified not only by the rumor, but my ignorance that I had been doing anything wrong. I learned that there was a "right" and "wrong" way to be a woman, and being wrong led to judgement. My pubic hair was a deeply personal issue, but not the only critique I received by far. My brown pants "were for lesbians." My dark arm hair was "manly." My thick, Persian eyebrows were "aggressive." I always had memos in my inbox: be sexy, be feminine, be sweet. 

After getting boyfriend experience on my resume, I began to pursue a real relationship with the boy I'd loved since the fifth grade. Can ten year olds fall in love? If they come from dischordant parents, have a high sense of empathy and understand trauma from a young age: yes. I loved this boy throughout my childhood and adolescence. I did all of his statistics homework, sensed when he felt insecure, talked to him on the phone for hours, encouraged him to pursue his dreams and made out with him whenever he felt like it. Every moment we spent together is still seared into my mind. I stopped speaking to him when I was nineteen and I didn't stop seeing his face in my dreams for a decade after that. I loved him. He confessed to loving me intermittently - when it served his selfishness to get something from me. I have faith that a few times, it was said genuinely. Perhaps accidentally. I could tell when he needed me - when we was willing to need me. I could tell when something more interesting had caught his eye. I chalked his wavering up to self-confidence. Afraid to openly choose me, he measured his status by the quality of the girl on his arm. Sometimes I was good enough, sometimes I wasn't. I resolved to believe that knowing he loved me was enough, even if he wasn't willing to say it. I expected honesty and bravery of myself and nothing of him. He had reasons. He had baggage. (I had reasons too. I had more baggage. I chose to forget that part.)

He broke the news that he had asked someone else to be his girlfriend as we sat in his parked car after a ride home. "She's a damp sponge," he explained. "You don't want a wet sponge - like a really slutty girl - because that gets water everywhere. But you don't want a dry sponge because you can't do anything with it. You're a dry sponge. You're a prude." 

I still can't speak to that. I have words, but none of them come out right. Maybe just one: fuckyou. I had never turned down any of his advances. I think he was projecting on me, probably? He cared more for me than he wanted to, and it meant he wouldn't hit it and quit it. He wasn't ready to commit, and I had been for years. He was afraid to get too close to me. That made me the prude, I guess. I felt used up. I felt heartbroken. 

My life wasn't shaping up to be a very romantic story. I, too, believed that girls with less-than-glimmering histories would have to sing the Bad Girl Blues or be graciously rescued by The White Knight. I envied the girls with protective dads who answered the door every time a boy knocked. Who stressed the importance of curfew. The girls who had long-term boyfriends who brought flowers to school for their birthdays and asked them to homecoming. Probably the girls who thought they were expected to give hand jobs during movies, but I didn't know that then. I was only realizing I wasn't that girl and I wouldn't become her. Ultimately, I enjoy exceeding expectations, so I resolved to be the best Bad Girl I could be.

From that point, I was reckless. I "hooked up" with whoever, wherever. Usually to get back at him. Usually at a party where I knew he would see. My dad had an issue with alcohol that scared the shit out of me, so I never drank. That was a blessing. I was never intoxicated, so I stayed rightfully afraid of going "all the way." Instead I went "a lot of the way." I was curious who I could attract - who would see me and say okay. I used every "yes" vote to prove that I wasn't a dry sponge. I was desirable and desired. I was damp, goddamnit. I'll spare you the rap sheet, but my friends know the standards started low and got lower. I really scraped the bottom of the barrel. My husband looks at pictures of the guys I dated before him and laughs until tears form at the corners of his eyes. "How did you think those guys were in your league!?"

Well. I thought I was a piece of shit. It's a pretty wide-open league. 

That path ended with my last boyfriend. Deeply wounded and emotionally abusive, I lived on a rollercoaster he re-designed every day. He loved me and loved me not. I was his muse and his savior or I was a bitch and a whore. I was accused of cheating weekly. Called at all hours of the day and night, in class and while sleeping. I drove from my college on the weekends to his campus to cook him food and clean his room. I listened to him talk to himself about music and movies. I watched him play on his computer. I waited while he slept in. None of the time we spent together was sacred. None of the miles I drove were repaid with excitement or gratitude. I locked my keys and wallet in my car and begged him for $40 to pay the locksmith. "Give him a blowjob, it's not my problem," he snapped as he walked away. He would scream in my face and then beg me to help him get better. I believed relationships were about fixing the people you love. 

One day, he hit me. I had gotten used to putting up with a lot, but I knew hitting was on the Never OK list. He drove me home as I cowered against the passenger side door. I think I opened it before he came to a stop on my street. I ran inside my mothers house and hid in a closet until I calmed down. I never saw him again, but he called me every night for a month after that, promising to commit suicide on his birthday. When I finally called his mother to beg for her help, she replied that she'd done her best and "gave him up to God." He didn't kill himself. Lucky for her.

I went on my first date with my husband seven months later. He called me on the phone and asked if I'd like to go out. He picked me up at my mother's house, his car cleaned and his pants ironed. We went to a restaurant and saw a movie. He held my hand on the car ride home. It was the first time I'd ever been taken on a date. He kinda pulled a White Knight on me. I've spent eleven years since that day letting him tell me that I was never broken or bad or wrong. I almost believe it.

Here's the truth. The White Knight can rescue you from a bad boyfriend, but he can't save you from the whole world. He can't save you from the messaging, the magazines, the one-day sales, the beauty regimens, the Fabletics ass ads on instagram and the Hadid sisters. I am not a broken person, but I was given a rudimentary education by a broken world. No one will rescue me from this. I can't be swept away. I have to fight back. Everything is not just "okay" now because I married a man who respects me. I have to take all my broken pieces and jagged edges and cut a new space for myself. For other women. For other men.

Do I think all of these men assaulted or harassed me? No, with obvious exceptions. Do I blame them for living in the culture that formed us all - Adams and Eves of America? I have only compassion and grieve shame I'm sure they endured with equal silence and misunderstanding. I don't think they got what they really wanted from me. I don't think, at the time, they knew what it was. I would explain their side of the story, but I can't because I'm me. I'm the girl. I only know this side. But yea, Me Too.  

wasi takes the train

She could never tell if it felt worse underground in the summer or equally bad. Up top, the smell of hot, evaporating urine in stagnant air. Down below, like being buried alive. I guess it didn't matter which she preferred, both were exactly what she was going to get that day. Three C trains passed her completely full, strangers bodies pressed together like warm yeast rolls that had once been solitary but swelled until their shapes formed into each other. When the automatic doors opened out of mechanical obligation, every pair of eyes on board pleaded soundlessly, "Don't try." Some days Wasi was on a schedule and she'd have to force them all to believe there was space for her. She'd elbow and wedge herself in. Some guy on his phone would bottleneck the aisle unknowingly, humans compressed behind him like gas in an aerosol can. But today, she had time. She could wait. 

Wasi dug through her backpack for headphones and spent a few minutes untangling the wiry mess. She had seen bluetooth headphones at a kiosk that weren't so long and easily mangled - she didn't buy them. A girl at work had a leather roll for all of her technology cords to be carefully filed and folded for easy access. Wasi could buy one, she thought, but her issue was never availability of tools, but rather a distaste for being so meticulously outfitted. Maybe if she climbed a mountain, one day, she'd go to REI and ask someone to give her a pocket and loop and a mesh vent for everything. Today she was just an hourly employee headed home. The effort she took to untie her headphones would mean nothing close to life and death. The last knot came undone and she plugged the end of the cord into her phone. Sound filled her ears, changed her environment, transported her from 50th Street to -- she didn't know where. Her own space. Wherever someone goes when they check out. Chvrches, "Leave A Trace (Goldroom Remix)."

Finally, two trains came one-after-another and the second was manageable. She stepped calmly onboard, trying to cosmically balance the violent injustice of the city by being an opposing force. Patient, gentle, cautious and slow in a sea of haste and fury. Maybe this was pride, she thought; maybe it made her just as self-involved as the pushers and shovers. Wasi almost never let herself get away with doing something simply, and this was no different. 

She never sat on the train. Someone else would want to and she would want that for them. She grabbed firmly onto a pole. As her fingers wrapped around the chrome surface, her mind moved to people who obsess about germs - who wouldn't touch the pole for fear of contamination. She'd heard somewhere that stainless steel was inhospitable for microorganisms and sterile, but of course that couldn't be completely true. There had to be a layer of sweat or snot or syrup on the pole already, but she wasn't the kind of person who cared about germs. It dawned on her that this trail of thought proved otherwise. Did some people grab the pole and really not think about it at all? Everyone else always seemed to win at thinking less. It was like trying to stay back with slow walkers; their pace was effortless and working to keep a relaxing pace with them was exhausting. She wished she had more friends who walked fast. She wished she had more friends who thought about snot on the pole but weren't afraid of it.

The doors slid to a close and the train took its first lurch forward. Out of the corner of her eye, Wasi saw a figure bend deeply with the movement and it startled her. She fixed her gaze on the form, a man, seated on the aisle. He was bundled in a dark coat, a hat dimming his features, but she could tell he was asleep. The jolt of motion didn't wake him, and his unconscious body rocked side to side with the movement of the train as if bobbing along in an ocean. Something about this vulnerability touched her, and she loved him. This wasn't uncommon for Wasi, to fall in love with strangers. In her younger years it felt like a curse - to see people so clearly and feel on their behalf so immediately. As increasingly more of her attempts to ignore this sensation betrayed her, she tried to find a way to accept it - even explore the impulse. 

He looked Latino. What was his name? "José," she thought, and then scolded herself for falling prey to generalizations. His name could easily be Brandon or Oliver or whatever struck his parents as dignified and respectable. His name was probably José, though. Her name was Wasi, and her dark Muslim features qualified their own stereotype. Formally, it was Wasifah, an Islamic name meaning "she who describes." Was it coincidence, then, that her mind ran in endless circles, like the earth rotating daily as it orbited the sun? Momentum; moving so much and so fast that humans on the planet didn't even notice. Wasi's mind was forever occupied with everything it saw, processing every thought, spinning internally as her body waited on the platform. Stood on the train. How was it possible that so much could transpire while nothing happened? She felt wearied by those thoughts and returned her focus to Jose.

With every turn, José's body lolled side-to-side. His nervous system would respond unconsciously, jerking his head up if he tipped too far. The people around him noticed and forgot in the same instant. They didn't know José or care. José was probably coming home from work, too. She wondered if he sold bluetooth headphones at a kiosk. Did he have lots of work friends downtown or more childhood friends uptown? Did he live with his parents - maybe a girl who was cooking dinner in anticipation of his arrival? A roommate who left pizza boxes on the counter instead of breaking them down to fit in the trash can? Did José always have to break down the pizza boxes? She imagined the roommate's name was Brandon. "Fucking Brandon, clean up after yourself sometime," she scolded. Why was José wearing a coat in the summer? Maybe he worked in the stockroom of a grocery store where cold air forced vegetables into arrested decay. Were the apples really fresh? She read somewhere that apples kept cold could stay crisp for up to a year. She would ask José the truth, were he awake. If she knew him.

Wasi knew it was easy to fascinate yourself with someone if you spent enough time contemplating how you were similar. José seemed to be around her age and he lived in New York City. He was on the same train as her at the same time. They had some big things in common. Why was it so hard to fall in love with people she dated? There must be an emotional threshold: a point at which counting similarities would work against you. Every relationship started the same - she would connect with someone over work, politics or music. They would see a movie they both enjoyed and eat at a restaurant, maybe Thai. They would both love Thai. She and A--- happened to buy coffee at the same hole-in-the-wall in the East Village. As things progressed, trying to stay in sync became a burden. Wasi didn't want to watch the same shit on Netflix that B--- liked. Wasi preferred staying at home on Tuesdays while C---- wanted to play trivia. Wasi was desperate to verbally communicate through conflict while D---- retreated for "alone time" to process. Past the initial steps of friendship, all she wanted was freedom to be different. She was desperate to find a companion who accepted her mind and its thoughts - her heart and its emotions - even if those traits weren't shared or understood. She was tired of trying to agree.

Wasi looked deeply at José. Why was he so exhausted that he'd fall asleep on the train at 5pm? Did he stay up all night playing video games? Did he eat fast food that sat heavy in his stomach, sapping him of energy? Wasi imagined Brandon and José watching SportsCenter until the early morning, sharing a joint and emptying two pizza boxes. "Get your shit together, José." 

The song turned over in her headphones. Radiohead, "Let Down." Wasi snapped into a different environment, though she still didn't know where. The train neared her stop, and its abrupt halt was too much for José's sleeping body. He leaned forward quickly until he folded over himself and fell completely to the ground. His eyes shot open, awareness restored. He looked around the train as almost everyone stared back at him. The woman across the aisle reached out her hand to help him up. Wasi was already turned toward the door and as it glided open, she pushed herself hastily onto the platform.

why it matters

I have been alive for thirty-one years and fourteen days, and it's taken thirty-one years and fourteen days to tell myself, "You are a Writer."

First of all, I think back on my history. Writers should have gone to college for english... or writing. Or whatever degree qualifies you to write. They should keep blogs heavy with content, "continue reading" buttons to the ends of the earth, right? Writers wear glasses. They read a lot. They are friends with other writers. They can quote important works with ease and confidence, their tastes are varied, their influences eclectic. Writers are published. Writers are recognized. Writers are celebrated. 

I am thirty-one years and fourteen days old and none of those things apply to me. I went to college for graphic design, and I started to hate it before I even graduated. I am not even qualified to get a job I spent money for which to qualify. My blog is a mess of emotional dribble and unstructured poetry, novice writing with no technical merit, too many commas I wish someone had taught me about run-on, sentences, too. I never needed glasses. My vision is fucking perfect, even though I under-delivered in an eye exam to manipulate my way into a pair of Warby Parkers. They make me nauseous but I wear them when I'm feeling restless about myself. I never read because I hate hearing what other people think until I'm desperate for a reprieve from my own opinions and I tear voraciously through a book and lay my soul at its altar. I deify the author of said book, imagining them in their glasses at a messy desk - one of those green library lamps half buried in scribbled notes of genius - all of their applicable degrees framed on a wall. Proof! Proof they are qualified! Proof their qualification denies my own. 

The only place I've ever been published is Xanga, and they shut down their servers. It was free. Frou Frou’s "Let Go" played when you opened my page. It was totally legit, but it doesn't exist anymore. Oh, and here. This isn't free - I pay $96 annually to self publish my emotional dribble - I can't tell if that makes it better or worse.

Where was I? Oh. I am a writer. 

It isn't because I learned how or have received accolades for really, anything. It's because from the moment I opened my eyes to this wide, beautiful world, I saw it. I felt it vibrate. I laid in the grass and tried to leave my physical body behind as I explored the depth and breadth of it with my mind and my spirit. I have searched it, cultivated it and put wheels over expanses more vast than my imagination. I knew I was an existentialist at 13 when I wept reading Kierkegaard, knowing I didn't understand a word but also agreed completely. I knew I was a poet in high school, when I locked myself in my closet and scribbled nonsense of the heart into a black-paged journal with pastel Gelly Roll pens. Only a poet would do something so painfully embarrassing and forget to be embarrassed. I knew I would write a novel in college when an idea would render me sleepless, a Blogspot page open and ten thousand words, all questions, would pour forth without caution. 

I know I am a writer because seeing, feeling and writing what I see and how I feel matters to me - and nothing else does. I tried to have lots of other jobs and apply myself in every acceptable way. I'm a hard worker and I don't like failing, so every venture has proven to be fine. A fine effort. They are all friend-zone boyfriends. Lovers I don't want to kiss. Passing time without passion. 

Value has always been a loaded concept for me. I remember as a child I had a friend who lived in a different neighborhood. We were out of biking distance. If we wanted to play, a parent would have to transport us in a car and those requests weren't always approved. Every time I wanted to see her, I'd beg my mother to take me to her house. I'd wash all the dishes and fold all of my laundry and grab the keys and her shoes and lay them both down at her feet. "Take me to my friend." Reciprocation has never been a privilege of mine. If the only way to play was for my friend to come to my house, she'd check with her mom while the phone rested on the coffee table for a minute, maybe two. Her voice would chime back in, unmoved, to tell me that "it was late and it just didn't seem worth it." 

It just didn't seem worth it.

It's taken me thirty one years and fourteen days to even begin to tell myself this girl (the next girl, ten boys growing up, three or four in adulthood) were lying. Action is so rarely driven by potential value of our effort - it's almost always driven by our desire to do something (even things that waste time or come at a cost)The answer was never, "You aren't worth it." It was always "I don't want to."

I've treated writing like that girl treated me. I have given myself one hundred reasons why whatever I wrote into The Conversation would be redundant and derivative, probably with shit grammar. I've discredited my qualifications and cast myself outside the community I'd love to occupy. I have continued to link ACTION to VALUE, when I've always known, deep down, this is a mistake.

I can write, and be a writer, because I want to. I have the desire. I see and feel and I want to tell people what I see and feel. It matters because it matters to me. And I am the only person I can change.