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“I hate group therapy. I hate group therapy as much as I will probably hate immersion therapy. I hate therapy,” he mutters.

“No, hun. You hate yourself,” the older woman wearing her pink and blue house coat out of the house under a clear, plastic rain coat whispers in his ear.

He changes his bus seat and waits for his stop at the free clinic.

“Is she right? Do I hate–?”

An enormous woman enters the bus, he exits and decides to walk the twenty blocks.
“ So, what sick, horrible thinking brings you here?” asks a perky, brunette with a tic that makes her eyes sparkle in an odd way.

“I don’t see how…ok, honesty, openness, and willingness…I am afraid of large people, especially women, eating me.”

“Is that a mother thing?”

“I’d appreciate you not talking about my….Never mind. What about you?”

“It’s a father thing that I’d rather not get into with a complete stranger…”

“I see, well—I think I will get some coffee.”

He leaves the free clinic before his therapy begins and does not come back.
“Cute, blonde BMW ISO of neurotic, bookish type for sapiosexual fantasies. Respond with your favorite knock, knock joke, so I know you are real. “

“Wow, a chick who thinks she is a BMW…vroom, vroom… with a sense of humor… I think this could be—“

They chat on and on and on via email, text, and phone.

They laugh, they think, they have intimate, phone sex using their massive vocabularies in novel ways.

They meet.

She is a cute, blonde BBW. He turns to run. She grabs him by the collar and pulls him in.

She eats him with a side of brazed cauliflower heads and Texas toast.

Full of him, she burps giddily.

Our Little Bird Flew Away


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“She knew I loved her. Didn’t she?” I choked brokenly.

My words scratched their paths out of my throat leaving my insides raw and tired.

“Of course, she did,” he answered without hesitation and in a tone of truth only he could muster.

“Then, I can stop crying?” I whispered again on the shaking verge of sobbing.

He said nothing and held my hand more tightly.

A Block Makes A Friend


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Once upon a time, there was a block. Everyone was scared of her.

“Oh no! Here comes the block, I can’t write anymore!”

“Oh no! Here comes the block, I can’t love anymore!”

“Oh no! Here comes the block, I can’t do anything anymore!”

Everywhere she went, people would do all sorts of things to get rid of her.

One time, someone set fire to her bike!

So, she walked everywhere avoiding people and mainly talked to birds and squirrels.

One day, a very pretty lady in a sparkly magenta fascinator, a rainbow dress, lime evening gloves, and sapphire velvet pumps sat on a park bench next to her.

They had a lovely conversation about the weather and the upcoming mayoral election.

After a bit, the fine lady gathered her bags to go.

The block shyly asked her name.

The lady smiled and answered, “Courage.”

Mr. B’s Birthday


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To fully celebrate his birthday, he throws off his mask of slightly friendly curmudgeon and delights in his new friends. He looks around touched by all who have come to his party and turns to the black lady in the low cut dress next to him saying, “Today I am 63, and I have never had so many people wish me a happy birthday before.” His voice falters, and his eyes grow misty. She nods then looks away and scans the other party guests. An older, red-headed neighbor woman comes by and jokingly sings a verse of a Beatles song to him. The three laugh.

Episodic Memory


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I. Hair Loss

I consider myself black; my mother is not.

Her hair is black, glossy, and fine. She would have grey (or silver as she liked to call it), but she dyes it regularly—herself, not in a salon.

Black, fine, sparse hair crowned my head when I was born.

My Asian-inspired locks grew until I was six months.

Then, my hair fell out, and my hair began to grow like my father’s in afro puffs.

My mother had no idea how to do black (or ethnic as salons liked to call it) hair.

My father’s family thought my mother was uppity and didn’t offer to show her the ropes.

I spent a lot of my youth in crooked plaits dreading the moments my mother would rake her wide tooth comb across my tender scalp while humming “Good Morning, Starshine.”

I hate my hair almost as much as I hate my mother.

II. Tales of a Teenage Low Life

I sneak out a lot. Sometimes, I leave to meet the guy who only sees me in secret. But most of the time, I stretch out on the grass behind the clubhouse next door and look at the moon. I feel small.


“Please touch my face when you kiss me,” I silently pray. I dream that he gently strokes my cheek and traces my lips. Now, he mainly pulls my hair at the nape of my neck or touches my breasts. I don’t think kindness or intimacy cross his mind in our embraces.

I kiss him with eyes half closed waiting for him to see me.


My mother found my secret journal. I forgot to hide it yesterday.

She threw it at me and said, “I don’t know what this is but destroy it before your father sees it.”

I begin to cry and cradle the black speckled notebook in my arms. These were commentaries about my life and feelings I had hoped to share with my future daughter.

Now, it’s something about which to be ashamed?

III. The Opposite of Empty

I am an undergrad at a premiere public university. I am an honor student.

I am not ready to be a mother.

The woman at the pregnancy center on Main Street wants to pray with me.  “Fuck!” I scream inwardly. I want to weep. Instead, I dig my nails into the palm of my hand and slowly nod, yes. She closes her blue eyes, and she prays for the life of my unwanted child. I just dig and dig.  No blood comes.

I walk out of the center onto the littered street. I look for a sign. I find a crushed Coca Cola can and a losing scratch-off ticket in the red, Virginia dirt.

I had learned in my family house without questions or feelings to gain advice from inanimate objects—rickety rocking chairs, crooked knitting needles, broken glasses. In the silence of generational wisdom, I read trash.

Today, the soda can and the ticket say nothing. Their quiet stoicism unnerves me, and I flee.

I come back to myself on the Free Trolley heading toward grounds.  I have no place to go. I feel the dead wood on my back and flinch. I look around and see others with no place to go at the back of the bus. I look sidewise as not to make eye contact.  I am afraid everything will sweep out of me in a huge tidal wave of snot nosed confession, if someone, anyone, looks me in the eye.

I realize I am holding my breath as I also realize I want to go to the Chapel.

I take a deep breath and watch through the Trolley’s smudged windows the groups of other first years laughing and walking towards O’Hill. I feel like I could just float away but my womb filled with baby weight anchors me down again.

I am an undergrad at a premiere public university. I am an honor student.

I have read Toni Morrison. I know what others have done, when they were not ready to be mothers.

“I will not have any of that nonsense,” I mutter to myself as I leave the trolley behind and walk across the grass to the Chapel. I notice a lot of yellow wild flowers. They brush-tickle my naked ankles over my sandals.  Part of me is trained to always smile in public. I grin to no one in particular and press my hand to the Chapel’s handle. So cool and thin and collected.

There is a woman wearing a doily on her bent head in the front of the Chapel. I feel so unprepared with my bare head, and I fear the exposure. I back out of the Chapel and go to my dorm to call my Daddy.

He is cold and doesn’t ask any unnecessary questions. He says he will pay for it during fall break.

I thank him. It occurs to me to tell him I love him after I hear the gentle and insistent dial tone.

Here, I am. All is resolved, except I find myself avoiding my eyes when I brush my teeth in the morning. I stare in my mouth watching the brush go in and out.  I style my hair from memory. I avoid me.

I know I don’t have the courage to call him and tell him I have changed my mind.

I know I don’t have the courage to change my mind.

It’s not really about courage. It’s about trust. I no longer trust myself.

The overblown cockiness and self-assuredness is gone. In its place I find the Pennsylvania doctor’s hushed voice calmly telling me what to do. I hear the whirring vacuum sucking away my responsibilities and my motherhood.

And, somewhere amidst the deep breathing and staring at the grey flecked ceiling, I turn and see what I later learn to be compassion in the nurse’s brown eyes.

And, somehow, perhaps through a miracle or just the passage of time, that one look nestles in my heart, and I am able to first glare at, then stare at, then see me.

I am an undergrad at a premiere public university. I am an honor student.

IV. Judith’s Last Song

“My Ma’s dead.”

He waits to hear more.

“She’s a vet. And, they gave me her–”

And, all of a sudden I am there. I am sitting in the folding chair borrowed from the V.A. in my borrowed, ill-fitting black dress smelling of and looking like a trash bag. Every time someone squeezed me in a hug a waft of Hefty would make me want to itch and throw up.

My Dad does not hug me. He touches my right shoulder for a moment, when he realizes I am on the brink of losing myself in my pain. His heaviness saves me. I do not cry.

The chaplain kneels and tells me the flag is on behalf of a grateful nation and holds up the red and white triangle for me to take.

I just want to punch the flag out of his hand, stomp his face, and run away.

Just run till I get to a place where my Ma is alive frying Spam and eggs with too much soy sauce.

Just run till the pain moves from my heart to my lungs.

Instead, I just sit there, and he places her on my lap.

V. Her Divine Madness

I scratch my practically bald head. They don’t let you have the dignity of a wig here.

I don’t remember what I did yesterday, but it must have been awful for them to lock me up.

I remember not sleeping for days.

I remember thinking someone close to me is going to be killed, if I don’t say the password.

So, I say every word I know while moving the hands back on all my clocks to give me more time.

Time seemed so important yesterday. Today, it seems it is all I have as I sit in a padded room waiting for I don’t know what.

Yelling is useless. No one comes. Begging is futile. No one cares.

I begin whispering to myself, “Please help me. Please. I’ll do anything for this to be a nightmare.  Please wake up! Please.”

Suddenly, I feel a presence behind me. I feel its empathy and compassion for me. I feel like I am being heard. I see nothing. I only feel the calm kindness.

Comforted, I fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.



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I finally catch him alone in the retreat’s dining room.

“Sir, I hate to bother you during your lunch break, but I just need to know… why am I here, and what is my purpose?”

The guru removes his left foot from his pink flip flop to scratch the back of his right leg.

He looks at the ceiling, me in the eye, and finally my plate.

He clears his throat. I hold my breath.

“Is that red velvet?” he asks with a smile that tells me everything.


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