I had immersed myself into America so fully, succumbing to its soft, rolling English with such abandon, that encountering someone from my country of origin felt like a kind of violation. I hadn’t been to Finland in eight years, almost never spoke the language in New York, and considered myself fully integrated. I had long since stopped checking American tree trunks for authenticity, scratching with my nail to see whether it left a mark, as I had done during my first year. I had seen the leaves of the trees grow and fall and grow again, had missed their green shadows in the desolation of winter. I was here. This was real. Finland was a souvenir.
“Getting into a character makes you keep looking for the thing in yourself you don’t want to find,” I said. Well, technically, Philip Seymour Hoffman had said that, but what did they know? “I think we should all try that at least once.”
“Middle of Night” and “Milk”
Middle of night, too late for candy or games. Scratch of Mommy’s slippers in the hall. We are three days without my father who left to who knows where?
The Thing in the Garden
Jodie’s body is a garden. After the cancer came they took off her breasts, and over the thick belt of scar, she tattooed Eden. Those gnarled green branches, that tongue-pink tropical flower, peaches so ripe and round you’d think you could squeeze them still. I held her hand in the tattoo shop, while the girl she’d worked with on the design bent over her body, holding the tattoo gun. She was a skinny girl, her head half shaved in the way the young kids are wearing it now.
Three Things That Happened
There were three things that happened to the pear tree, which was typical because disasters usually come in threes, and this rule did not make exceptions for fruit trees. The first was the baby bird.
The Ceiling of the Porch is Blue
“Isn’t it possible? People can be ghosts. Why not places?”
She sighs, tilting her face up, and all the tiny changes in her appearance come together. Her cheeks are longer, skin pinched around the eyes. Winnie always had dramatic facial expressions.
Walk like a Gorilla, Talk like a Gorilla
I wasn’t prepared when her eyes opened, and she looked at me with absolute clarity, fully conscious, making me feel ridiculous. The image of that moment is sharp as glass at the end of the tunnel. There may have been fear in her look, desperation, fury, but there wasn’t a hint of giving in.
Double Exposure by Hannah Schultz
Everything else fades, and my eyes go right to her chest with a panicked flick. I freeze in the doorway, and my dad moves as if nothing is wrong, asking me in a soft voice to close the door behind me before I let all the heat out. I have to watch several times as her chest rises slowly, depressing with the air whistling out of her open mouth, before I can shut the door. Breathing means functioning lungs. Breathing means life.