Category: Essay

Eternal Wager by Josh Rank

“Why do you do that?”

I turned around, halfway up the stairs, and pretended I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Do what?”

“Slap your leg?”

We were in his basement, which had a same-leg staircase.

“Wanna play horse?” I asked.

He paused for a second, and then said, “Sure,” before running past me up the stairs.

I don’t know how it started, these little games. But they still linger. The initial motivation might be gone, but they’re worn in place. Products of habit. Annoying tics that my wife can’t stand.

Packing up the shit by Lucy Goldring

Whip the plastic net off the counter, your other hand snatching small blunt scissors from the drawer. Chew the bright orange mesh into wildlife-friendly pieces and lob them into the kitchen bin as you flip the lid with a perfectly timed toe-pump. Attack task after task like a TV ninja fending off waves of frenzied assailants.

From the fridge – that meekly-lit synthetic void – rescue a tub of vegan spread, half a mature cheddar and some ripped open ham that won’t survive five hours of stuffy car. Sprint up to the campsite at the other end of the grounds. Think about this being the final leg of the pig’s miserable journey as you palm off the sweaty goods on nonplussed relatives. Sprint back. Strip the bed according to the property’s ‘Covid-safe’ instructions: mattress protectors in the red bag, sheets and duvet covers in the green, towels made into a damp pyramid in the bathtub. Tackle the washing up mound for the third time in as many hours. Sweep the floor and return the dustpan to the musty cupboard. Discover tumbleweeds of dog hair and dead leaves amongst the jumble of your shoes. Silently weep. Clap each pair together, sending allergens whirling, and bundle in the IKEA carrier you never wanted. Sweep again.

My Name is Jennifer, and I Don’t Have a Legal Middle Name, Either by Jennifer Jeanne McArdle

When my mom was pregnant with me, they asked my older sister what she thought about her sibling still growing in the womb.
“It’s a girl, and her name is Jennifer,” she insisted a few times.
Jennifer is a very common name for girls born in the 70s or 80s. Even in the 90s we had two, sometimes three, Jennifers in my class most years.
But my parents didn’t know where my sister had heard the name. There were no Jennifers on her favorite shows or in her class. Her best friend at the time was a “Valentina”.
Picked it up on the tail-end of its zeitgeist, maybe.
My parents couldn’t consider any other name after I was born.

A Purple Tutu by Leo Gibson

Did you know that I was an incredibly gay kid when I was 4 years old? I don’t mean that I knew that I liked men at that age, but I definitely was such a stereotypical caricature of a gay man. I never loved Disney princes, only princesses. My favorite colors were pink and purple, and I always wanted to wear those massive rainbow beads. However, there was one thing that was the cream of the crop of my four year old flamboyance. This shiny, purple tutu with ruffles. We have video footage of me prancing around outside with a glittering tutu whilst my parents make snide, but non-offensive comments that I couldn’t understand because I lacked any sort of cognitive ability.

Shelter by Patty Somlo

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term “shelter-in-place.” Like many expressions that come out of nowhere and get repeated ad nauseum, turning into clichés, shelter-in-place probably entered my consciousness from the local nightly news. Until the coronavirus began to dominate TV news coverage, reporters in my area, which covers San Francisco and its sprawling suburbs, focused on grizzly car accidents, house fires, and of course, shootings. From time to time, a shooter would be pursued, and residents warned to shelter-in-place.

The term has been used more frequently in the past two decades with the rise in school shootings. Students practice active shooter drills, in which they shelter-in-place until first responders arrive and the danger has passed.

Speaking English with an Accent by Gauri Sirur

Four days after I moved with my family from Mumbai, India, to Cleveland, Ohio, I picked up the phone to order pizza. I had eaten pizza twice before in Mumbai–at a small eatery that served a spicy-sweet sauce and cheese on a six-inch pizza base. (This happened over twenty years ago. In 2021 pizza is widely available in India.) But now in Cleveland, I couldn’t wait to try the exotic version I’d seen in American TV shows and comic books.

I dialed a number from a flyer that had come in the mail. “Hello, I would like to order pizza.”

“Sure,” said a young male voice at the other end. “You have Q-pins?”

No Caller ID by Lindsey Goodrow

The other night I got a call at 4:45 AM. I half-squinted at “No Caller ID” flashing on the screen of my phone. This wasn’t the first time that I had received a call like this. My heart rate immediately accelerated and I fumbled to turn my phone on mute. I flipped it over so that the screen was facing downward and focused on controlling my breathing – big belly inhales through my nose. I tried not to wonder if I should have just turned it off, in case the calls continued to come in. Minutes passed in silence, my breath steadied, and I drifted back to sleep.

Using a loophole to call your ex is a bold and pathetic move. To call at 4:45 AM implies drug and alcohol indulgence. To know, the next morning, that “No Caller ID” was most certainly dying from regret and a bad hangover was admittedly satisfying to me for a short period of time. But the unbearable pain deep in my chest and stomach that came with that call and lingered for months after was affirmation that I needed to continue blocking “No Caller ID” from my life.

The Book That Helped Me Look Within by Shilpa Gupte

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’

The words jumped out at me from the page of the book, Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. A friend visiting India had gifted it to me three years ago, but I couldn’t proceed beyond the first chapter and so put it away. Non-fiction not being my cup of tea, I let the book lie in a cozy corner of my bookcase. I thought I would wait for the book to prompt me to read it.