by Frances Saux ’14
Back when Aidan used to work late hours, when he came home grey-faced and exhausted well after it had gotten dark, Audrey and LC had the evenings to themselves. Home was quiet. Audrey cooked, then left the food out on the counter for Aidan, and in the evenings she would read LC stories before bedtime. She’d wait with a glass of milk while LC put on her nightgown and chose one of the books from the stacks on the floor, which she tended to with obsessive tidiness, checking that the spines all lined up, that the titles all face the same way. Once LC chose a book, Audrey would read, slow and meticulous, pausing at each page so that LC could sound out the sentences for herself.
But he’s been working less and less lately, says he needs a little goddamn time to think whenever anybody asks why, and so he starts coming home in time for dinner and helps Audrey peel potatoes with weird enthusiasm even though he lets the peelings fall off the cutting board and in the middle of eating he shows LC the trick where he puts the spoon on the edge of his nose and it stays, but LC scrunches her face at him, saying she already knows that trick and Audrey wonders to herself how dinner suddenly got so noisy, and realizes she has sort of forgotten what Aidan is like, how he likes to joke around when he isn’t exhausted from work, and one night when he is home early he sees Audrey walking towards LC’s room with the usual glass of milk and pushes past her into the bedroom. He says, “Hey puppy, do you want to hear a story from Daddy tonight?”
Then it’s a story from Daddy every night. Aidan doesn’t bring LC milk. He usually doesn’t even wait for LC to change out of her day-clothes and into her night-clothes, but Audrey knows that he’s a better storyteller. It’s all the acting he did in college. Sometimes, Audrey lies on their bed, listening to him read in the other room. She hears Aidan’s voice moving through the text, speeding, changing tones for the dialogue. She hears LC giggle. She hears the violent turning of pages. She hears LC say, “Another one, Daddy!”
She hears him read two or three stories, even though they have a one-story-and-then-bedtime rule. She hears LC growing agitated and tired all at once. She hears the stifling of yawns.
After the stories, Audrey hears the goodnights and the lights clicking off. Then, always, she hears Aidan’s footsteps down the hallway. Keys in the front door. Shoes on old concrete. The revving of the car. He leaves every night. Audrey just lies there, awake and still on the bed, staring up at the ceiling and listening to the sound of cars and their shadows passing over the room when they come down her street. She’s come to recognize the noise of their car so she knows when it’s him and she can check the clock before he parks. While she waits, she thinks. She wonders where he goes. She understands that LC’s bedroom is closer to the front door than their bedroom, so that if someone leaves from LC’s room they don’t have to walk past the master bedroom at all, and so when Aidan reads LC a story at night, he can leave without running into Audrey, without seeing her lying on the bed, in the dark room, fully-clothed. Staring at the ceiling. She wonders whether Aidan ever feels guilty. She wonders whether LC ever hears him leave.
When he comes back, the sky out of their window is usually a cold, dark pink. Audrey measures the sound and rhythm of his walking, trying to figure out whether he is drunk. She hears his bear-sized boots on the hardwood. She hears his nails dragging the side of the wall. She hears a hallway light flick on and off again and on again.
She flinches as he opens the bedroom door. He lets in the light from the hallway. He sits on the edge of the bed to untie his boot. Grunts. Asks, “Why do you always wait up Audrey?”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
He lies down in bed beside her, and she rolls over. She smells his breath.
“Did you take the car?”
He does not answer her.
“Where did you go?”
He closes his eyes tight, forcing himself into sleep. He does not move. Audrey watches him for a moment, knowing he is still awake because of how his eyelids strain to keep closed, and she thinks that he looks a bit like a child in the middle of a nightmare, his cheeks red, his face squirming. She has the urge to tuck him in. She grabs the blanket to pull it over his stomach and shoulders, but she stops herself. She lets go of the blanket. Instead, she moves her hand from the blanket and up onto his chest, where, feebly, she leaves it. She holds it there. He breathes. His heart goes quickly under her palm as though it is racing to get somewhere but Audrey does not know where. There is a cold spot on his shirt where something spilled.
by Molly Bond ’15
Therapist #1 emerged and led me into a spacious room, adorned with numerous wooden bookshelves. She instructed me to sit down on a couch next to my parents. She leaned forward in her swivel chair, and stared straight into me with unalarmed eyes.
“What seems to be the matter?”
I shifted around on the couch, pleading internally for my parents to help me out. When it was evident no help would come, I croaked out an answer.
“Well, you see, whenever I touch… like, whenever I touch a mug, you know, like a glass? With my right hand? I always feel the need to touch it with my left. And, if I don’t…”
“Well? What happens if you don’t?”
I was at a loss for words.
“Well, if I don’t, it just… doesn’t feel right.”
Therapist #1 snorted loudly. She leaned still further forward in her chair.
“I know what you have,” she revealed, triumphantly. “Would you like to know?”
Finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for! The cure to my unexplainable problem!
“You have OCD.”
I nodded in agreement, wondering what OCD could possibly be. Was it a brain tumor? A disease that would devour me from the inside-out? Would I need braces, or worse, glasses?
My hands shook.
“So… is it… does that mean it’s… is it fatal?”
Therapist #1 glared at me. “That’s the OCD talking!” She declared.
I was terrified. The OCD was making me say things? This OCD, whatever it was, was controlling me? I pictured myself on a hotel bed, covered in mean-looking tubes, screeching at the nurses as my body pulsated to an unheard song. She pointed at the clock.
I left the room more neurotic than I had ever been in my whole life.
Uncle Charlie (excerpt)
by Hosanna Rubio ’14
I knew it. I told ’em all but I knew. No one ever believes me though. Crazy old guy with an eye missing. That don’t mean one sardine to me though. Cus’ I’m still the only one who knew. See, they’re everywhere. Gangsters and prison freaks, I mean. Taking over our lil’ city, causing a mess like usual. But I say, keep all that mess in prison. But no, let’s just be lazy and naive about everything. Cops that live up to their donut and coffee addict stereotype. The mayor, he used to, I said used to be a good man. He was criticized for tryin’ to keep the people safe. What a rodeo, huh? Too bad he got shot.
But like I said, I was the only one who knew. My brains are still whole, I’m sane unlike everyone else ‘roun here. These people is crazy as I don’t know what. Freakin’ out like watchin’ blood pour from an emancipated leg. Now I see none of this my fault. When reports of missing inmates at prisons flashed on the news, I bought myself a shiny new lock. Put that on my front door so them hoodlums couldn’t try nuthin’ crazy. Soon the guards who worked in prisons, jails, turned out missing or dead. Got another lock, this time a thick bolt lock. Creepers on probation went A-wall, shiny chain lock. Probation officers went kaput — I got bars on my side of the windows. True story. And a lil’ six inch pocket knife …..
by Marley Walker ’11
This I know to be true: there are certain stories you don’t ever tell, and your body knows it. I was sure that this was a story I was never going to have to tell. But two miles away from the beach, at five in the evening, I’m running, slipping off black heels and sprinting in stocking feet, holes growing wider among the mesh, a suppressive heat climbing up the back of my dress and staying put on the crook of my neck — and I know that this is a story that my body is screaming at me not to tell. It knows that if I keep running, drawing closer to the ocean and finally reaching it, opening my mouth and letting the words pour out of me, that my body isn’t going to be able to stitch up that little piece of heart again that it’s worked so hard to tuck away.
But, baby, I know you want me to tell this story, your story and my story and the way we were filled with a hard, aching love for the way those shores only had room for those in need of clarity.
My hair is growing damp and frizzy from sweat and humid ocean air, but I knew I’d meet you there, if I could just make it to the beach, if I could just tell your story. It’s one step off the pavement to the beach, and the sand dunes just begin to roll away from the street. I’m making one of those moves where I can feel my body starting to break as I step down and clench my toes into the cold night sand and shuffle my way across the dunes, struggling to even my breath. The dusk is gray and I believe the ocean has a cold, spewing and spitting waves with a rumble, wheeze, and whir — the brown pelicans leaning away to avoid getting sneezed on. I was afraid I was starting to forget; the belly of the bathtub, the expansive ocean, was swallowing you up whole.
You were always at ease on the sea. I guess we were made just the same, you and I. It’s damp sand between me and the foamy waves, and I lift my arms up and tilt my head back and breathe you in. Sadness is a heavy thing. I play toe tag and foot-fight with the surf and finally step in, getting crushed by a big wave, coming up, and doing it all over again. This is our story needing to be told.