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Aliens at the end of her arms

April 6, 2014

She spent a long time examining the backs of her hands, pushing the thin skin into ripples with her fingers. She pondered the dry patch near her left pinky, the one bulging vein near her right middle knuckle. Her cuticles needed to be pushed back, and her fingernails were growing unevenly.

They were like old friends, these hands, and they had done so much to help her along the way. But today they seemed like unfamiliar beings, aliens at the ends of her arms. They spoke of who she had become, a person she sometimes didn’t even recognize.

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Rhythm and rain

April 4, 2014

They woke to the sound of falling rain, and it made their warm bed’s gravitational pull even stronger than usual.

I’m not ready yet, he said, and he reset his alarm clock, changing the day’s whole rhythm. The minutes slid by like drops down the windowpanes, and they slept again, the blankets muffling all the worries about what would come later. The light seeped into the room, revealing all the cracks between the two of them and the world outside.

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Guys hurt each other

March 4, 2014

“I’ve been tear-gassed, but I’ve never been pepper-sprayed,” said the man trying to impress the woman next to him at the bar. “I’ve been tased. My roommate bought a taser and I said, ‘Do it to me!’”

“How did it feel?” the woman asked.

“I regretted it,” the man said. “But that’s what guys do! We hurt each other.”

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Every winter

February 12, 2014

It’s not as if she didn’t expect the heavy limbs, the deadening of her body. These things happened every winter, as soon as the sun disappeared and the ice took hold. She kept a countdown of the days, checking them off one by one until they started getting long enough to get her home before dark. She slept with the lights on if necessary, determined to use any method she could to beat back the oppression of early night. Every day she survived took her one day closer to when spring would finally return.

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Into the shell

February 10, 2014

The world disappeared for a time yesterday, the fog separating couples from one another, obfuscating minute and second hands, muffling the sounds of sweeping on the porch outside. On the roads, cars threw parabolas of water from deep, standing puddles, and honored the warning of brake lights. It was hard to recognize friends beneath slick, soaked hoods and hats.

We had become sun-spoiled and thirsty, so I had no complaints. Still, I found myself crawling into the shell of my heart by the end of it, in search of some small shelter from the storm.

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Morning swim

February 8, 2014

No swimming after dark, the sign says. But it is still not dawn when we slip from air to water. The moisture collides in a rising fog that turns swimmers into ghosts.

The sky turns grey, then pink. The second hand sweeps around, around, around, ignored by all the steady lap swimmers. I slip from the pool as the second shift stumbles to the edge of the deck.

The hardest part is getting wet, I tell the man above me on the deck.

I know, he replies, windmilling his arms to delay entry. That’s why I’m still out here.

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The purest, clearest water

January 10, 2014

The truck halted on the grassy track along the edge of Aunu’u, and Tino gave the orders. Shalom macheted down a small tree to knock a set of green coconuts free, and Francis shimmied up the palm trunk to loose them from above. They sliced off the tops and handed each of us one to drink. 

It’s the purest, clearest water there is, Tino said. God blessed us this way.

 

He taught us how to use the shell to scoop out the meat and eat it. This is the Samoan way, he said. Now you try.

 

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