Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Unveiling

ETHAN: Hey, don’t I know you?

FATIMA: I don’t think so.

ETHAN: Sorry, I mean to freak you out.

FATIMA: You don’t freak me out. Do I freak you out?

ETHAN: Why would you freak me out? Weren’t you at the market today?

FATIMA: You noticed me?

ETHAN: Of course I did. Sorry. Am I embarrassing you? I guess it’s a bit of a faux pas to compliment a woman wearing a veil.

FATIMA: Is it?

ETHAN: Well, isn’t it?

FATIMA: Is that what you’re doing? Complimenting?

ETHAN: It’s what I meant. Beauty like yours is hard to miss. Wow, now I sound cheesy on top of being a creep. I’m sorry.

FATIMA: Why is that creepy? Because you don’t know me?

ETHAN: Because you don’t know me.

FATIMA: Who are you?

ETHAN: Um. My name’s Ethan.

FATIMA: Hello, Ethan. I am Fatima. Pleased to meet you.


FATIMA: Now we are not strangers. Is it still creepy?

ETHAN: … Little bit, yeah.

FATIMA: Are you freaked out? Do you think I’m creepy?


FATIMA: Are you sure?

ETHAN: I’m just nervous about how you think of me.

FATIMA: Then why did you come over here to talk?

ETHAN: I don’t know.

FATIMA: You don’t?

ETHAN: I noticed you because… you were walking alone and you turned around real suddenly, and your eyes… I’d never seen eyes like that. Not angry, just… strong.

FATIMA: You liked my eyes?

ETHAN: I know. Like I said. Cheesy.

FATIMA: Why do you think that I wear this?

ETHAN: I mean I know it’s traditional. For muslims.

FATIMA: You assume I am muslim?

ETHAN: Aren’t you?

FATIMA: I am. But that’s not why I wear the Veil. In Saudi Arabia, it’s the law, but I’m not in Saudi Arabia. I’m in America. I don’t have to wear it—in fact, I’m arguably in more danger when I do.

ETHAN: So why do you wear it? Oh, you want me to guess? Are you flirting with me?

FATIMA: What do you think the Veil is for?

ETHAN: I’ve always been told headscarves are to hide your hair because the sight of a woman’s hair drives a man wild—but of course that didn’t stop me.

FATIMA: Which is why you were so awkward.

ETHAN: So is that it? You want to weed out advances from men who are only after your hair?

FATIMA: My hair is really not that impressive.

ETHAN: No, you’re tougher than that. You don’t have to wear the Veil, but if you do… if you do, people will know who you are. What you are. And if they judge you for it—

FATIMA: Now I know who they are. Would you like to have a drink, Ethan?

ETHAN: With you?

FATIMA: I thought that was obvious.

ETHAN: Don’t you have a brother or an uncle or cousin who’ll beat me up if I do.

FATIMA: My brother has bigger things to worry about. And besides, why would they worry? Do you intend to behave shamefully? Or to make me behave shamefully?

ETHAN: Do you want me to be honest? I just feel like honesty is the best defense in a situation like this.

FATIMA: Do you feel under attack?

ETHAN: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel…

FATIMA: Threatened?

ETHAN: Uneasy. More like… threatening. And not wanting to be.

FATIMA: I don’t feel threatened.

ETHAN: Maybe you should.

FATIMA: Why? What will you do to me?

ETHAN: Is that your only concern? What I will do?

FATIMA: Why be concerned with anything less? What do you intend to do to me? You promised to be honest.

ETHAN: I wouldn’t say it was my “intentions” I wanted to be honest about.

FATIMA: You want to be dishonest about those?

ETHAN: I don’t intend anything harmful or shameful, so honesty’s not really a factor.

FATIMA: I’m afraid you’ve lost me. Where does the honesty fit in?

ETHAN: Feelings. It’s not about what I will do or in intend to do. It’s about what I want to do.

FATIMA: You want to ravage me—


FATIMA: You want to rip this Veil off my head—

ETHAN: Jeez—

FATIMA: You want to liberate me from my bonds and grant me your Western Freedoms.

ETHAN: Oh, come on.

FATIMA: Then what? What do you want to do to me?

ETHAN: I want to woo you. I want to woo you the way no woman has been woo’d here in the West for fifty years. I want to make you swoon. I want to spin you up in a web of honest truths and make you dizzy. I want those flashing eyes of yours on me and I want to be worthy of their devotion. I want… you. Not for simple carnal purposes. I crave idolatry. What I want is your devotion. There. Have I shocked you yet?

FATIMA: Was that your intention?

ETHAN: I just told you my intention. What is yours?

FATIMA: You spoke of idolatry.

ETHAN: I tend to wax poetic.

FATIMA: Was that because you wanted to shock me? To scare me off? Test my muslim sensibilities?

ETHAN: Have I scared you off?

FATIMA: No. No, I think you have fascinated me. So how about that drink?

It Ain’t Cheatin’ If The’e Ain’t No Rules

PETE: Dude, use the cheats.

HARRY: Why they call ‘em cheats anyway?

PETE: Are you high?

HARRY: Ain’t no rules in a game like this.

PETE: Fuck you talking about? Course there’s rules.

HARRY: What? Like how fast you run? How high you jump? How hard you wreck a bitch? Those ain’t rules. That’s straight-up mechanics. So a cheat’s not a cheat, dog. That’s some straight-up magic.

PETE: Why don’t you use it?

HARRY: Bitch, do I look like a motherfucking wizard to you? Aw, fuck.

DICK: I gotta talk to you.

HARRY: I ain’t listening to that shit.

PETE: The fuck? What’s going on?

DICK: This here idioting hairball—

HARRY: The fuck you just call me?

DICK: Just broke up with his girlfriend.

PETE: Aw, shit.

HARRY: Yeah, I dumped her cheatin’ ass.

PETE: She was cheating on you?

DICK: Like shit she was.

PETE: With who?

HARRY: Motherfucking Boris.

PETE: What? Nuh-uh.

DICK: You don’t believe it? Good, ‘cause it’s bullshit.

HARRY: I know what I know.

DICK: I am telling you, she is a virgin, for fuck’s sake!

HARRY: And how the fuck you know that? Huh? Oh, wait, wait, wait, no. Oh, no, I know this one. Your girlfriend told you, right? Right? Her cousin told him, see? And it’s not like Trish would lie, right? Not like Claudette would lie to her, right? About being a ho, about how she let some fucking Russian fuck get in and plow—

DICK: What the fuck is your problem?

HARRY: You don’t think I should have a problem with my girlfriend cheating on me?

DICK: I don’t think your girlfriend is cheating on you!

HARRY: Hey, man, weren’t you the one like five minutes ago telling me I shouldn’t be hooking up with bitches only want my money?

PETE: Dude has a point. That was two days ago.

HARRY: Oh, but see now you’re actually out there getting some pussy. Now things is different, huh? Now you’re all nice. See, before, you weren’t out there, so you were all “bitches be hoes”, but now? You got yourself whipped, son.

PETE: How’d you find out, though?

HARRY: Who’s at the damn door?

DICK: Trish.

PETE: Hey, Trish. What’s happening?

TRISH: She’s dead.

HARRY: The fuck?

TRISH: You killed her. Do you hear me, motherfucker? You killed her!

HARRY: Hey, hey! I didn’t do shit!

TRISH: What the fuck did she ever do to you?

HARRY: You know damn well what that bitch did to me—

TRISH: Don’t you dare talk about her that way. I have known that—I knew… that girl… You son of a lying whore.

HARRY: Dick, you best get your bitch outta my face, or I swear to pretty blonde Jesus—

PETE: Uh… Jesus was black?

HARRY: You shut your whore mouth, Pete!

TRISH: No, you listen to me. That girl loved you with all her soul. She lived for you. And then she died for you. And for what? ‘Cause you wanted some booty?

HARRY: I ain’t the only one chasing tail.

TRISH: But you were the only one who caught her. Or you could have.

HARRY: Tell that to motherfucking Boris.

TRISH: Dude, would you stop with the Boris—

HARRY: Hey, look, I’m not saying it ain’t sad she’s dead. But she wasn’t no saint.

TRISH: Why the fuck do you think she slept with Boris? Did Boris tell you?

HARRY: No, man, Johnny told me.

PETE: Hold on, Johnny told you?

HARRY: I mean, yeah.

PETE: And you believed him?

TRISH: You stupid fucking piece of shit.

HARRY: What? He said he caught them!

PETE: Johnny’s just trying to start some shit.

HARRY: Why would Johnny want to start shit?

PETE: ‘Cause he’s a asshole. He’s my brother, I should know.

HARRY: So hold up… you’re sayin’…

PETE: We’re saying you got played, dipshit. And now that poor girl’s dead.

HARRY: But how do you know?

PETE: Bitch, are you oxygen deprived? Holy shit, y’all, this motherfucker—

HARRY: What?

TRISH: Now you want proof she was innocent all along, but did you ask Johnny for proof she was guilty?

HARRY: Aw, shit.

DICK: You’re damn right, aw shit.

HARRY: I killed her. I killed my baby. Claudette… aw, shit, Claudette. No! No! Why? She was my girl, Dick. My girl… what did I do?

DICK: Fucking killed her, Harry.

PETE: Like you handed her the knife yourself.

HARRY: I didn’t want her to do! Shit… my angel… didn’t do nothing wrong, but then… Claudette… Claudette! I’m sorry. I’m so… so sorry…

PETE: How did it happen?

TRISH: How’d what happen?

PETE: Did she kill herself?

TRISH: Oh, no, she’s fine.

HARRY: What?

DICK: Hold on—

PETE: I’m sorry—

TRISH: Yeah, no, she started crying, we started talking shit—

HARRY: Motherfucker!

TRISH: Set up a little dart-board for her with your face on it, face is all full of holes now.

HARRY: The fuck you do that for?

PETE: Girl, that is some fucked up shit.

TRISH: You wanna talk fucked up shit? Get your ass in line. I told this motherfucker his ex girlfriend killed herself, less than twenty-four damn hours after he dumped her on her birthday and dude’s like “Not my problem”. Fuck me? Fuck you! And the hotrod motorcycle you rode in on. Hey, Dick, you coming?

DICK: Yeah. Yeah, I’m coming. I’m coming with you, how ‘bout that?

HARRY: Pete?

PETE: Shut the fuck up, Harry.

HARRY: But how was I supposed to—

PETE: Harry? Shut the fuck up.


SEANA: Do you have a crush on me?



JORDAN: Does that surprise you?

SEANA: No… I mean, just that you’re so… I mean, I didn’t expect you to just…

JORDAN: Why should I hide it?

SEANA: Well, I mean, you’ve been hiding it.

JORDAN: Well, I mean, but you obviously know. Now. So.

SEANA: But why were you hiding it before?

JORDAN: I mean, why does anyone hide anything? Embarrassment?

SEANA: You were embarrassed to like me?

JORDAN: I was embarrassed to have a crush on you.


JORDAN: Crushes are embarrassing!


JORDAN: You like someone, they don’t like you…

SEANA: How do you know I don’t like you?

JORDAN: Well, you don’t exactly shower me with… anything. Most of the time, you act like I’m not even there. You hardly even look at me, let alone…

SEANA: And it never occurred to you that maybe that had something to do with me having a crush on you?

JORDAN: … No. Wait, do you have a crush on me?


JORDAN: Then why would you even say that?

SEANA: I don’t know!

JORDAN: Why are you even bringing this up?

SEANA: I don’t know. There’s just… there’s a lot of stuff going on and I’m just trying to figure it all out, you know, put the pieces together. It’s like everyone I know, no one’s really…


SEANA: I don’t know. Why didn’t you tell me?

JORDAN: I didn’t want to get in the way.

SEANA: Doesn’t being around your crush kind of get in your way?

JORDAN: I didn’t want to get in your way. People act different around people who like them, even and maybe especially if they don’t like them back. It makes them uncomfortable. Aren’t you uncomfortable?

SEANA: I guess. But how can you know someone likes you if you don’t ask them?

JORDAN: You know. Well, theoretically. You don’t like me, though. Right?

SEANA: I mean, I like you…

JORDAN: Even knowing what you know?

SEANA: You’re the one with a crush.

JORDAN: Crushes are annoying, though. You’re not annoyed?

SEANA: I don’t know. You’re not really doing anything.

JORDAN: But then how did you know?

SEANA: Keisha told me.

JORDAN: Keisha told you? Oh my God!

SEANA: Don’t be mad!

JORDAN: Why the hell did Keisha tell you?

SEANA: How do I know? We all know she’s a backstabbing bitch.

JORDAN: She’s not a backstabbing—well…

SEANA: See? The more you know. What’s it like for you, though?

JORDAN: What do you mean?

SEANA: Isn’t it hard to be around me? Isn’t that what… what a crush is? Isn’t that why they call it a crush?

JORDAN: I guess so. I don’t know. I guess it’s more a matter of, I know that I like you and I know that you’re not interested, but because I like you, I don’t know. I want you to be happy.

SEANA: You just said I always ignore you.

JORDAN: You don’t always ignore me. Sometimes you smile. Just not…

SEANA: Right.


“Lightning Crashes”

Childbirth can be dangerous. I feel like people forget that sometimes, you know? Someone says “I’m pregnant,” you tend to think one of two things: best case, “Congratulations! You’re going to have a baby!” Worst case, “Man, that sucks. How are you gonna take care of it? What are you gonna do?”

It’s like we’ve forgotten childbirth is a battlefield.

We remember the pain. Right? They keep playing it for comedy in movies and TV. But it’s all right, right? Get through the pain, there’s a brand new life on the other side of it.

Unless there’s not.

Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester. That’s why there’s starting to be this convention, I guess, that you don’t even announce until you’re two or three months in. Just in case, you know. That’s why my mom waited three weeks to tell Robert even after she was sure, and another two to tell me and my brother. Not that I didn’t know already. I am who I am, right?

But even finding out when I did, knowing even before she did, I was terrified. I was looking after baby Karen when I found out. I saw the act, then I saw the blood. Then I saw my brother, small, fragile, eyes closed, as the nurses washed him off.

I didn’t see my mother.

I knew what holes looked like, how to trace their contours, but I still didn’t know what they meant. Not seeing my mother—Well, maybe she’s ot that important, I tried reassuring myself. And maybe I could have convinced myself of that in any other context. But here now, washing my niece, reminding myself why I was the one in a position to ever need to wash her…

I looked into her eyes. She smiled. She knew nothing of my plight. She didn’t even know she was a motherless child.

I wasn’t in the room when Ellen Portnoy died in childbirth. She was seventeen. I saw it from the waiting room in pretty much real time and I was livid. Why show me this? Why show me now? I saw the light go out of her eyes and by the time Jasper came out of the room and brought the news, I was already in tears.

These things are not supposed to happen. Not anymore.

But they do.

So here I am, looking at this baby I’m supposed to be cleaning, not knowing if my mother is going to make it to my high school graduation. At least I’ll have a brother—but what will we do with him? One more mouth to feed, and with what?

I watch my mother grow. I watch her feed the danger inside her. I catch glimpses of what he’ll look like over the next few years. One time, I think I even see him at fifteen or something, playing fetch with my dad.

I see myself, too, by the way. Sometimes real far out—forty or fifty. I think I might’ve caught a glimpse of my retirement party. I don’t know. And I ask myself “Have I ever actually seen my mother? That far out? Anywhere near it?

“What’s got you down?” Declan asks me in the waiting room. On the whole, we’ve never had a lot of conversations and they’re awkward when we do.

I tell him my misgivings, not the visions themselves, but how “Nobody ever talks about the dangers.”

If this were a love story or a soapy costume show, this would be the part where he put his hand on me. My hand, my shoulder, my back, maybe even my face. Sometimes I get shots and I don’t know if they’re fantasies or what, of this friend of my brother’s and the things that I want him to do to me and it takes me a minute to remember “Oh, right, that’s Raven, that’s not me at all,” ‘cause it’s so easy to get us mixed up, and then I’m not confused anymore.

But he doesn’t put his hand on me, anywhere. Not now. His affection doesn’t require such physicalization.

Finally, about nine hours into my mother’s third labor, it comes to me. Not a single image or scene, but an avalanching montage of my mother and her new son. It crashes into me, a wave of sickening schmaltz lifting the doom off my shoulders and tossing it casually into the wind behind me. Like the Fatal Guide who sends me this shot only just made up his mind or realized he was running out of time to fuck with me on this.

My stepdad came out with a smile. “You want to be there, Kassie? When the baby comes out? Come on! You don’t have to look.”

I couldn’t help but remember the “being there” feeling of what happened to Ellen Portnoy. But I knew now there wasn’t anything to fear. Not here. Not now.
Not yet.

Having to Choose

TAYLOR: Having fun down here?

JARED: Fuck off, Taylor.

TAYLOR: We need to talk.

JARED: I got nothing to say to you.

TAYLOR: Oh, I’m sure you got plenty to say to me right now.

JARED: Look, just fuck off, okay? You won, don’t know why the fuck you’d be here to begin with. Huh? Shouldn’t you be off celebrating or something? With her?

TAYLOR: Is that how you think of this? Like it’s some kind of competition? I never wanted to fight you for her.

JARED: All right, what the fuck do you want? Huh? You gloating?

TAYLOR: Hell, no. I’m not that guy. Least I try not to be.

JARED: Then what?

TAYLOR: I had a… proposition. I know you… well, I know how you feel—at least, I have some idea. And I know how much Kylie… struggled trying to decide, well, which of us… I just thought maybe there might be a way to make things easier on everyone.

JARED: The fuck are you talking about?

TAYLOR: Why make her choose?

JARED: The fuck?

TAYLOR: Look… I’m not the jealous type. I know jealousy is paradoxically this trait that we value in our society, much as we bad-mouth and pooh-pooh it in our rhetoric, we still have this assumption… I’ve never felt it. I know how Kylie feels about me, I know how Kylie feels about you… And I gotta say, I don’t hate you for it. I actually think you’re pretty decent. Most of the time, anyway.

JARED: Why are you doing this?

TAYLOR: Because I want her to be happy.

JARED: Uh-huh—why are you really doing this?

TAYLOR: God’s honest?

JARED: If you don’t mind.

TAYLOR: I like you. I don’t want us to be enemies.

JARED: What exactly do you expect us to be? Us both being in love with the same girl?

TAYLOR: All right. I get it. You’re not open to that, and that’s fine.

JARED: What exactly did you expect me to be open to?

TAYLOR: Forget it. Forget it. I apologize. I’ll fuck off now—

JARED: Are you gay?

TAYLOR: Not exactly.

JARED: Are you wanting to… Like, with me?

TAYLOR: The thought had crossed my mind. But I’ll understand if…

JARED: If I don’t want to fuck you while I’m fucking her. If I don’t want you there.

TAYLOR: She’s the one you’re in love with. Right?

JARED: I don’t fucking get you, man.

TAYLOR: It’s OK. Little off the beaten path. I dig. Just… let me know if you ever change your mind. I’ll make you dinner or someting.

JARED: Just fuck off.

“Going Away to College”

Declan was never not going to go to college.

Raven was. Not going to go, that is. It was something that hadn’t even occurred to her as an option. She didn’t think she had it in her, didn’t think it was worth it, didn’t bring it up until her guidance counselor did.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

It was Declan who turned her around. Was he doing it for selfish reasons? Was he doing it because he knew that he liked her and he wanted her to be smart like him because it would make him feel better? Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not here to judge (that part).

But I do know that he was good for her. Even when she was with Blake, Blake might have respected her, and if she gave her opinion, he respected that, but he never asked for it. Declan asked her opinion and advice every step of the way, treated future decisions like they were mutual and inclusive, even before they started dating, her being part of the band and all.

Am I sticking up for Declan because I have a crush on him? I don’t know, but I really can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t. Stick up for him, that is. Or have a crush.

The surprising one was Jasper. Jasper was going to go to college. His parents had gone to college. Our older sister had gone off to college three years earlier. But here Jasper was, saddled with a kid.

“You need to go to college because you have to be able to give your kid a good life,” Mom kept trying to tell him.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Jasper shot back. “That’s four years I won’t be able to care for my kid at all—“

“You’ll have a support system—“

“And then what? What kind of job would I have? With a college degree? Fucking everyone has one of those, and hiring managers don’t care anymore. You know what they want? They want job experience.”

Jasper had been listening to other prospective dads at his dad-classes.

Looking back on his life, it should have been obvious to everyone—and I’m really not sure why it wasn’t—that college was never Jasper’s thing. I don’t know why they even thought he would get in. Academics never interested him. He was kind of a bum—no, that’s not true. When he did get into something, he really worked hard at it. Like, he might never have been the best musician, but he was really into actually being in a band, like the promotional side.

“You could do that for a business,” Mom suggested once. “But you’d probably have to go to business school.”

“I’ll take night classes.”

“And quit the band?”

Quit the band? Quit Angst?

It wasn’t something that Jasper had ever actually considered.

Declan hadn’t really considered it, either. Part of that was because he knew he was going to be going to college pretty close to home, and so was Raven, once she got all that straightened out. Trinity’s Field is a college town, so why not, right? Everyone did it.

And they’d hit a pretty good stride. They were playing some pretty decent gigs—not to mention winning that same aforementioned opening for SchadowFreud moment. So when it came time to really make decisions and Jasper came out with that part, Declan and Raven just looked at each other.

They had actually thought about it. No, that’s not quite true. They had talked about it, in bedroom fantasy terms, what would be like to hook up as musicians, just the two of them, strike out on their own, Raven and Declan. Declan and Raven? I always kind of resent it when the boy’s name automatically goes first, but you know…

They hadn’t really ever thought they would do it, though. They were lovers in a bubble and the bubble isn’t real, until it is.

“We should talk about this,” they agreed.

“Is this the end of Angst?” they all thought.

College is supposed to be a time of tectonic shift. You’re expected to take all your clothes off, all the way down, and try on new ones, and it’s surprising how many people find out they’ve been wearing the wrong bra. It’s a time we have for those people who go to set aside childish things and turn their dreams into magic or dust.

By the time Jasper would have gone to college, he had lost all his childish things on a bullshit gamble that hadn’t paid out. His dreams were deferred.

But Did You Have Fun?

ELLIOTT: Some night, huh?

JOHN: It was okay.

ELLIOTT: Oh, come on. I saw you. You catch his name or the two of you get too tongue-tied?

JOHN: Gee. You think that one up all by yourself?

ELLIOTT: I know you like him.

JOHN: Pretty observant for a straight guy, aren’t you?

ELLIOTT: I know your type.

JOHN: Oh my God! My type? Are you serious?

ELLIOTT: You’re real quiet, so you’re attracted to loud men—

JOHN: Oh my God!

ELLIOTT: There’s nothing wrong with that!

JOHN: Stop it! What about you, though?

ELLIOTT: What about me?

JOHN: I saw you talking to his friend. Darcy?

ELLIOTT: Who? The stuffy one with the glasses?

JOHN: She’s not stuffy! Not the way Bing tells it.

ELLIOTT: Well, she was pretty damn stuffy with me.

JOHN: Are you upset she wouldn’t dance with you?

ELLIOTT: I’m not upset she wouldn’t dance with me, no. After the way she turned her nose up at me when I asked her, I’m actually kinda relieved she said no.

JOHN: Are you serious?

ELLIOTT: Look, she’s just not my type, OK?

JOHN: You and your types! Bullshit! She is exactly your type!

ELLIOTT: Did you just say “bullshit”?

JOHN: Don’t change the subject, Elliott! She was exactly your type! She’s tall—

ELLIOTT: When have I ever dated a tall—OK, yeah, fine—

JOHN: She’s a brunette—

ELLIOTT: I’ve dated blondes! I have very dated redheads.

JOHN: Not like you’ve dated brunettes, honey. Plus, she’s smart.

ELLIOTT: You forgot funny. Funny is also my type.

JOHN: Not always. Sarah wasn’t funny.

ELLIOTT: No, but at least she was able to take a joke—

JOHN: Until she wasn’t.

ELLIOTT: Which is why it didn’t work out! Sense of humor is important to me, Johnny!

JOHN: Hey! What have talked about.

ELLIOTT: John. Sorry.

JOHN: Accepted. And I still think you two would be really cute together.


JOHN: You could be her henchman—

ELLIOTT: Oh, shove it.

JOHN: What! Our spouses could be each other’s best men! It’d be perfect!

ELLIOTT: Mom was right about you, wasn’t she?