Monthly Archives: December 2010

I Always Liked the Taller Girls

She bared her breasts alone for me in a room full of queens and celluloid, two large globes with plump pink mountain tops that looked me in the eye and I wondered how she went from top of her class, feeding on caffeine pills, to the tacky, flashing lights of this small room with Spanish subtitles. There was always that hint of misogyny, of feminism failed while she made time with that jheri-curled luchadore, that Mexican military brat. Was this her first time in Vegas? After the wedding, it’s possible that she never left, never returned to a New York future where men would call her “bitch” while she pulled new pantsuits and racked in six digits, or more. Would her father approve, if he knew what she was up to, or is he too busy with his trophy wife making the Marriott Desert Sands as delightfully hospitable as such southern beaches would allow? She was such a smart girl when I knew her, which never seemed so long ago — second from the top in mind, but always a head above the rest.

A Rejection Letter To Myself, circa 1994, As I Imagine It Would Have Been Written By The Editors Of Ploughshares

Dear Ms. McColgan,

Thank you for submitting some of your poetry to our prestigious quarterly journal. We receive many submissions and regret that we cannot personally contact each and every writer. In this case, however, we’re making an exception.

How can we put this nicely? Frankly, we can’t, so we’re going to let you have it with both proverbial barrels: this is histrionic vomit that you are passing off as “poetry.”

Capitalization is your friend. Ellipses and dashes are not your friends. They should not be used in place of proper punctuation. You are not Emily Dickinson. You are not even Gertrude Stein. Learn the rules before you break them.

If we were your ex-boyfriend, we’d have broken up with you, too.

Sincerely,
Prestigious Quarterly Journal That May Or May Not Be Affiliated With Your Choice Of Graduate School

Morning Coffee

Remember that week we ate only hot dogs and mac and cheese? Shirley says.

Mom has walked into the room to see if anyone needs another helping of anything and swats at my sister like a fly. She is smiling the way she does when my aunt informs her that she’s using the dinner fork with her salad, laughing politely at a joke no one made.

Let’s talk about things we’re grateful for instead, my mother says. She leaves again, presumably for more sweet tea or another plate of food materialized from what was a pile of ingredients just this morning when I joined her in the kitchen for some coffee.

He’s forty-two, huh, she said after she poured me a cup and laid out all four flavors of creamer she bought for the holiday. I pretended to read the labels on Spicy Gingerbread hoping she wouldn’t notice that I was drinking my coffee black. I know you’ve always been mature for your age, but sweetie.

She said the last word as though it was a reason all its own for me to immediately stop dating Russell, the man lying in my childhood room upstairs. He’d woken before I had and encouraged me to go down and talk to my mother who had made no effort hiding her discomfort with me dating a man whose age is a fresh memory to her.

What can I say, mom? He’s a wonderful man, and for the first time, it’s actually working. I’m sorry it makes you uncomfortable, but you’re going to have to trust me.

She’d been taught – though never told – to understand a certain thing about unmarried men of a certain age. She had two failed marriages and a rocky relationship with the rest of her family that had taught her to assume those things about people, but I can’t help but think she wished he was at least a widower.

She leaned on the counter toward me, covering both of my forearms with her own. Okay, she said, making me want to cry for no reason at all. I trust you.

And before I could reply, soften my tone the way I’d always been meaning to, she gathered up the four bottles of coffee creamer and moved toward the fridge.

You drink your coffee black now, huh, she said.