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The guarantee

April 18, 2017

When they met, she saw him as a guarantee—no matter what happened to her later, she would always be taken care of. Even though so little love passed between them, she would never be scared of poverty again.

She read all the things people said about her. She winced at the half-truths, the blatant lies, the guesses that hit far too close to home. She knew he would never be the kind of man to whisper to her in the dark. She didn’t need someone on the Internet to remind her she chose to never be an equal.

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Racing

April 17, 2017

She sprinted through the woods, skimming over roots and rocks and slats of small bridges, racing from the world, racing from the news, racing from herself.

The night before, he had played a song of peace on his guitar, and she had been able to forget, but when dawn broke, she looked out the window at the smoke rising from tiny fires that never seemed to go out and remembered again.

So, every day, she tried to outrun every story of suffering like each life depended on it. Every day, she fell further and further behind.

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Coal-hearted

April 16, 2017

The signs they carried read the same as if they’d saved them from a march in 1953. All these years later, there has been no dissipation of that same bright, hot anger. Why does that hate never go stale? she asked her friend.

They’re afraid of losing something they never had the right to take in the first place, her friend replied.

So many of the marchers’ faces glowed as if on fire. She stared at each one as they passed, reading their statements of hate, imagining the coals smoldering at the very heart of each one of them.

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Losses

April 15, 2017

From the BART windows, passing through West Oakland, I spotted a man sitting outside an RV in a trash-filled yard, a set of empty deck chairs around a glass table, forty retired dusty mailboxes lined up in the corner of the post office’s back lot.

If everything goes wrong, most people might not miss these things. But I will ache for the liquor store at the intersection of 7th and Center, for the rumbling line of trucks awaiting containers of cargo at the port, for the multi-colored loops of tags on the wood siding of houses glimpsed from above.

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Despite it all

April 14, 2017

She pushed through a curtain of beads into the room, leaving a swirling clatter in her wake. It’s Friday, she announced. Let’s find a way to forget all of this.

She had something outrageous in her purse, she whispered, and she didn’t care what they did with it. He found that confusing, but he also liked her style. He liked a woman who could look in the face of disaster and laugh.

There’s nothing left for us to do, she said. We’re going to have to have fun despite it all. Come on. Let’s go.

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The most beautiful cake

April 13, 2017

At the end of dinner, we eat cake. Maybe we have some champagne—mostly for the ladies, because they love bubbles, am I right?—but we have chocolate cake like you would not believe. I know the pastry chef, and let me tell you, he makes the best cakes.

Everyone tastes the cake, and they say how great this cake is, and then we all talk about that icing—no one makes icing like that pastry chef. Sometimes we bomb one of those countries over there, but mostly, we eat cake. The most beautiful cake. Believe me.

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Briefing book

April 12, 2017

That afternoon was three parts cloudy, with spatters of rain landing like spittle launched from a high balcony. He waited for the barista to make his coffee, the lines in his face deeper than usual.

For days, he had worked on the briefing book he hoped might stop the impending invasion, sleeping on his office sofa in a rumpled shirt and khakis for a few hours at a time before diving back in.

No one would read the book, but he wanted, someday, to be able to say he’d thrown words in the face of the the oncoming storm.