I think I have always loved her. In the most simple terms, it has been always. In High School I was one stereotyped archetyped fool and she was another. Whichever ones we were never seemed to matter. In one life I played football and she played the trumpet. She was in the marching band, and I played the bench. I saw her in that strange little outfit, marching in that strange little way, down our strange little field and must’ve thought to myself, “That’s her, my strange little wife.”
In another maybe she was on the tennis team and I volunteered in the Library. She would come in after practice and sit down, covered in sweat. She’d open her book, usually something a little too intellectual for me, and read for an hour until her mom came to grab her. We were open late those days, for reasons I couldn’t remember. One day I asked her about her book, and her eyes lit up. We talked for an hour, her book lying in her lap, and that was the end of that.
Another time we met in theatre, before a production of Bye Bye Birdie. We had little lines, and no named parts, so you could only imagine the free time on our hands. We were paired as a couple at the end of the number “A lot of livin to Do” and well I’m sure you know the rest at this point.
Each time, we had three children. Each time they were named Rose, Oliver, and Jr. They went to different schools and got different jobs but they were all the same. They were always ours. And I was always hers. And her, always mine. Each time we grew a little closer, grew a little faster, met a little sooner. This time we’ve been married for 64 years.
I never really wonder about what will happen next. I am happy with now. For always.
Story by Dante Cokinos
And hey she was that heartbreaking earth-shaking blonde n’ buxom cherry pie bombshell, remember? She crosses her ankles all lady-like while whoops and catcalls ring out in her mind, like the ones that used to erupt from the corner of Main and East 5th as she’d flounce by, aflutter with polyester and perfume. Once, she was the queen of that neighborhood, but gentrification and a bum hip had corroded her crown. Straightening her back, she feels the individual contours of her body sink into the cushioned seat of a cerulean vinyl chair.
She runs fingers lacquered with shimmer over her rayon dress, coaxing out wrinkles. Beside her, a defunct travel poster advertising palm laden Punta Gorda hangs on the wall like a garish fantasy window. Last night in the shower, she had shaved her legs with a new Bic razor and big foamy billows of shaving cream. Gazing adoringly at the bald pearly skin of her calves and shins, she wonders on this menial nightly task, and how much easier it had been now that she’d had a small stool installed in her shower, and a handrail to grasp with each change in position.
A cigarette hangs lazily from between her fingers. She’d smoked them since high school when they’d take the place of her meals to help achieve emaciation. Her grandma, with haughty high-necked matronliness, would scold her slim frame and tell her that she’d blow away in a bad storm. She’d scoff and prance around her room in bikini tops and dizzy spells. Now her grandma was dead and her own distended abdomen had been kept trim with tummy tucks instead of tobacco. But hey she was the ‘it’ girl remember! If they didn’t drool over her, they envied her! She fixes her shining eyes upon the black lense before her and flashes that artificially-whitened-million-dollar-smile. The man behind the camera clicks the shutter, capturing the photo for her newly updated AARP profile.
Story by Maggie Allan
Some say he’s the fugitive owner of a fleet who used Filipino men to illegally fish off the Tanzanian coast. Some say he’s a Greek artist who is staring at the sea in the hope it will submit, with fear, to stand still for a painting. Some say he’s the estranged father of the café owner, basking in his son’s presence but fearing to get too close. Some say he’s a contractor who supplies brimming baskets of caviar and cloyingly sweet Moet to yacht owners with enough money to buy a whole fleet. Some say he’s even a yacht owner himself, and they click their tongues behind his back at his stingy purchase of one café au lait and one sablés de vanille.
Stingy, he may be, but certainly not disloyal. There are old crones who weave crab baskets with fishy hands who claim he’s been sitting in that white chair since they were young. And he wasn’t supple limbed and rich of hair like they were, oh no. The same lines on his sun-weathered face, the same salt and pepper hair, the same stomach pushing open that same beige shirt. Ask the propriétaire of the café and he’ll swear the exact same thing. That old man makes me my living, he says, even if he props it up with coffee granules and biscuits. The customers? They’ve made him an attraction as famous as the city itself, a mystery as big as the inside of the elegant yachts. His face on photos scattered across the globe; daubed in swirling, thick acrylics on years’ worth of easels; his description scribed in letters, in blogs, in notebooks, in travel guides, and even in a novel that the poor author tried to get him to sign.
Monaco is a place of constant change. The sea lures people away and carries people in. Moving homes make for a moving population, of new faces and old faces and all faces in between. But here, the rock against the tide, always turned towards the sea, staring out at something only he will ever know.
Story by Florianne Humphrey
The air was hot, and the idea of moving was simply frightening. There was nothing he could do to stop sweating. He pictured himself standing up, walking to the kitchen, grabbing a rag, wetting it and laying it on his chest. He then began to picture how drawn out the walk to the kitchen would be, how the hot air would fill in around his arms and legs, and how his breathing would become quickly laboured and humid.
Maybe, on the off chance that he’d give himself the courage to walk all the way to the kitchen, he could stand there, with the refrigerator door swung wide open, and cool off like the vegetables in the crisper drawer. This time, he pictured the cold air swirling, entwining with his arm hairs and making them stand on end. He took a minute to picture this and struggled in deciding whether or not the pay off would be worth it. Without really meaning to in the first place he pictured a tall glass, with beads of condensation collecting on the outside, and sweet tea on the inside, poured over ice. He pictured himself, frozen in a large block of ice.
Then, sweating from all the picturing he was doing, he gave up picturing anything at all.
Story by Ella McClure
For the first few years I could remember you were always up before me (gone to work) and in bed after me (back from God knows what) and our lives only overlapped in the half-life of the night, respective worlds of son and father only converging when we were both unaware. You slept in an exaggerated sprawl, like you were posing for a cheesy commercial, not hunched over like you were during the day. While I would curl into a passive ball and Mom would lie flat as a plank as if freshly executed, you would attack sleep, relaxed but vigilant.
But I could only see this when I would wake up in the night, sometimes groggy, sometimes clearheaded, sometimes just to take a piss. Sometimes it seemed like my brain just had to make sure I was still alive and that there was a roof over my head and the world still made sense, and all I had to do was snag a sight of you and catch a whiff of the smoke in the curtains and then I could pass out peacefully. Even if your mind was already running further away by then our bodies were never closer, in the smoky room where the three of us slept during those years, that room where all our needs and wants blended together, where cigarettes and food and water and sleep were all the same, all melted into a hazy stew. Mom said that the cigarettes would kill your lungs but they seemed to blend with your soul, something that you seemed to transmit to me either genetically or through diffusion at night. In the end that was the only thing you left- a curve in the curtains, a crease in the pillow, your breath in the walls.
Story by Ben Biber
The two of them sat at opposite ends of the table. The conversation had trailed off a bit, so Mary just sat back and watched him enjoy his cake.
“Are you going to want another piece?” She asked.
“No I’m good.” He replied as he wiped the crumbs from his mouth.
“Alright. I’m going to clean up then.” She got up and took the rest of the cake over to the counter. As she made her way across the kitchen, she stopped and kissed him on the forehead. “Happy birthday, hon.”
“Thanks, Mom.” He replied, scraping up the leftover frosting on his fork.
As she put the rest of the cake in a Tupperware, Josh put his plate in the sink and came up behind her.
“Hey Mom…” He trailed off a bit.
“Yeah?” She loved this part. She could tell that even though he assumed there was a present, he was terrified that she had somehow forgotten. She pretended not to know what he wanted, and tilted her head? “What’s up?” When she saw the color drain from his face she couldn’t keep it up. “It’s in my room. “
He was already gone. She smiled to herself as she listened to him barrel down the hall and practically rip the door open. She waited a moment and listened closely.
“Do you like it?” She waited for a response. Instead of a reply, she heard a soft click. Then the frantic footsteps again, this time coming back to the kitchen. He slid across the floor in his socks, catching himself on the counter.
“Look!” He handed her a black photo. “I think you’re supposed to wave it around or something,” he added. She sat down and watched it materialize as he peered over her shoulder. “What do you think?” When she realized what it was, she gave the photo a smooch, turned to him, and gave him the same.
Story by Seth Steinberg
His name was Jimmy Charles, and he was the first man I met who made me hate men.
My daddy was leaning against the hood of his jewel, his 1975 Chevy Camaro, with a grimace that could’ve killed a puppy. Camp had just let out, and it was hot outside. My shoes stuck to the pavement as I walked over to him. When daddy was in a bad mood, there wasn’t anything that could be done. This was different. He was silent and small, like a lion watching its prey. Daddy had sweat dripping down the side of his face. The stereo was flicked off, and the engine revved to a steady hum. When we slid into our spot outside our house, we sat. I felt like we were in a hot air balloon, the one daddy and mommy took me to for my last birthday. The air inside daddy’s jewel kept getting thicker, and daddy kept sweating. I began to wonder what we were waiting for. Was someone coming out? Or were we going in? After sitting for what felt like a long time, I got out of the car and looked at the house. It looked the same; the grass had been cut today. I walked up the steps to the screen door that kept the summer bugs away and saw the inside door was left open. Daddy said to never leave the door open cause you never know who could walk in. I looked back to daddy and saw him watching me from the windshield. The sweat was in his eyes now. I went inside and heard a voice I didn’t recognize: dark and deep, and daddy said to never trust a stranger. Then I heard mommy’s laughing from the kitchen, so I followed it. My mommy was standing by the stove with a dress on that had no sleeves, cooking something good. When she realized I was there, she stopped laughing. Then I heard the dark and deep voice and looked at the man who was seated at the table. “Hello, sweetie. My name’s Jimmy Charles.”
Story by Aria Middleman