Letter to Michael

Letter to Michael

Michael, it looks like you’re having a nice time in Spain – thanks for the photos of you and your friends on the Camino. Life is much the same here. It’s Saturday and I’m drinking coffee in bed, my cat is at my feet. I’m shaking my head at the saddest news, wondering how it feels to be the police sergeant who held his people back from entering the elementary school in Uvalde. How it feels to be the teacher who was accused of leaving the back door of the school open, the cop who sped by the shooter, the 911 operators who took those calls from the kids. The mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, the grandparents. Everyone. Things are the same here. People at the farmer’s market were cheery. The weather was bright and warm, and there were 17 kinds of salts lined up at the spice man’s shop. The mango lassi maker told us the cardamon he used came from India, and as I left his booth, he reminded me to say hello to a mutual friend. Some people aren’t looking at the news, “because what can we do?” one friend says of Ukraine, Buffalo and Uvalde, but I leaned in hard to the weather beaten face of Steven McCraw, head of the department of public safety, who spoke for 43 minutes during a press conference, going over the timeline of the shooting. When he got to the 911 calls, his face cracked, he began to speak and then stopped, cleared his throat and stated the facts; what time the calls came in...
What I Came For

What I Came For

It was like this, you were in Mexico, and the moment you got there you wondered why you’d come. You tried to remember the plans you’d made months ago, why you thought five weeks south of the border was a good idea. Your story was this: you liked San Miguel, a big city that felt like a small town. You liked stepping out of your rented house on Animas St., how you literally fell into the flow of people heading into the day; the rag-tag group of kids with backpacks, mothers strolling babies, the bakery owner pushing open her doors, a man throwing a bucket of water onto the cobblestones. You liked cobblestones, how they huddled together like thousands of baby hippos, the short walk to the town square that took you past the school where Mexican teenagers in uniforms and pink hair lounged alongside grandmothers on benches. The churro man would be there, sitting in front of his pyramid of sweets. He’d be asleep in front of the pile by noon. And the balloon lady, she’d be there too, minding her toddlers, as she tied strings to balloons so they didn’t fly away. You knew that Pamela’s house would be perfect with its shady living room – a respite from the 93-degree heat – the big wall of bougainvillea in the courtyard that you could stare at from the couch. On the roof was a stand-alone bathtub where you imagined yourself floating in warm water, watching hot air balloons rise from the hills. You’d tuck into yourself a little more, get a little quieter. “This time you’ll fall...
A Time Like This

A Time Like This

Last night I lay in a hot bath in the bright lights of my bathroom, watching a woman on TikTok, a stranger to me, a blond therapist with a soothing voice, assure me that in her lifetime, and in the lifetime of her parents, who are also therapists, none of them can remember a time like this.    And so if you’ve been feeling tired or foggy, she continued, her eyes resting on me, if you find yourself drifting in circles around your house looking for the list you’re sure you set down somewhere, and which will dictate your next move. If you’ve veered from some sense of purpose, she says, if you find that your appetite for conversation and company has dwindled, and two hours with anyone is just about all you can muster… If you find yourself, I murmur aloud, as I lay in hot water, eyes closed against the brightness, if you find yourself declining dinner invitations because you are speechless, and there’s nothing left to say, if you find yourself at home alone, night after night  – not because you’re afraid of a new variant, but because these last two years have taken the chat right out of you. How last week, you found yourself speaking aloud to yourself in the car as you drove to meet your friend, Laura, for a walk around the lake. “I’m well,” you practiced saying, “you know, working and…” the words stumbling out of your mouth as you readied yourself to be with another person again. If you find yourself looking forward to another episode of Bridgerton so you...
I Don’t Know How to Write About War

I Don’t Know How to Write About War

I don’t know how to write about war. But I do know how to get up in the morning, after an election, a pandemic and an invasion in Ukraine, wipe the sleep from my eyes, and stumble into the day, angling myself to the promise of hot coffee, music and poetry. I don’t know how to write about war, but I can tell you about the picture I saw of a row of strollers that Polish mothers had left at a train station for the arriving Ukrainian mothers and their babies. And while I can’t tell you where the human corridors were supposed to be in Kiev, I do know how to cross a busy street in Oakland with my 26-year-old daughter, our elbows interlocked, me looking left and right, protecting my child as we head toward an outdoor cafe for a meal. I don’t know how to write about war, or how to pack a bag in ten minutes, or what to do the night before a war, how one young man in Kiev said he had planned on making a banana chocolate pie to bring to his work mates, how that same night he was online looking to buy a new game for his PlayStation, but how the next day there was no work, and no pie and he was researching Molotov cocktails instead. He is the same age as my daughter, who told me that she realized that for two years she has been working for 9 hours a day in her apartment for a large company that she is making rich, and that she is...
Things I Didn’t Know I Loved …

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved …

How when I let my cat inside in the morning, he skims his body alongside my ankle, practically the only time he’ll make physical contact with me all day because he knows I’m about to feed him. I know I loved the morning coffee, but I didn’t know there would be a desire for more in the afternoon, and that sometimes I’d give in to that the way I’d give in to another game of solitaire on my phone, which I thought was me wasting time, but which my friend Catherine says is me simply finding another way to rest. I love all the green leaves from the trees outside my living room – a wall of green that enters my house – and how today I fantasized that if I were dying I’d want to bring my bed into the living room so I could watch the trees and take all that green inside of me. And at night, how, when I finally turn out the lights, I make my body into a comma, bringing my legs into my belly and pulling the pillow under my head. Or the way my hand moves instantly to my chest in the morning, a silent prayer to move slowly, to not tumble toward the list or check email too early – an attempt at keeping things fuzzy and unassembled and a little closer to the dream. I loved the idea of moving the woodpile. And I loved the idea of starting the mosaic project, as well as the collage project, but I didn’t move toward any of it. Instead I took...