older things (2015)


The floor of the metro station is cold and uncomfortably damp on the bottoms of your thighs. You already feel like a piece of shit, wearing your housemate’s blue dress and your own shoes, playing a game on your cell phone with your thumbs while she talks with the boy she is bringing home tonight. You’re not entirely sure why the three of you are traveling together. It might be because of you, because you said you didn’t want to take the metro alone. She wants to fuck him even though he’s stupid and talking about stupid things, his politics or how drunk he is or his deployment maybe. He’s in the military, he says. The MARC train speeds past the platform where the three of you are sitting and the warm night air sweeps up your dress.

There is a house you went to once – you don’t know who it belongs to, but you went to a party there once – where you can see the train right out in the front early in the morning. You were trying to score some coke there, but you ended up watching the trains go by at four AM when the sky was light purple and the dust had settled in the yard. It made a loud noise going by, like on a children’s TV show.

You told the lady in the psych ward that you would probably throw yourself in front of a train. She asked why and you told her, in truth, because it was convenient. There were always trains in the DMV and people didn’t really pay much attention to each other on the platforms. She asked you why you hadn’t done it yet and you told her the truth again. Your death would cause more trouble than it would be worth.

Someone else was passed out on the roof of that little house by the train tracks with a bottle of Jack Daniels and the neighbor’s emaciated one-eyed cat.  You never learned who. You just kept your chin up on the fence and you thought about the old Tropicana commercials where a person in a grocery store reached through the shelves and into an orange grove in South Florida where a worker with leather gloves would hand them a fresh jug of juice. That is what you thought of when you thought of trains – imports, loads of fruit being shipped to places where it doesn’t grow.

You still think about it when the train comes and you are sitting down on the cold humid platform and he tells you that it’s here now and you’re lucky no subway rats crawled up your skirt. You tell him rats are okay. From where you were sitting, you think maybe you could have done a quick little roll out onto the tracks, maybe even built up a trajectory and hit the third rail.

The two of them are touching in the seat up ahead of yours, and after a while he turns back to you and he asks if you are okay, because you haven’t said anything. And maybe you feel that maybe he’s vindicated himself, but mostly you just think about how he’s the first person to ask if you are okay for a very long time. (And you are, mostly – you’re eating again, sleeping, taking your medication and the sedatives when necessary, not committing “passive suicide” anymore.) But it makes you angry that you had to wait this long. So you tell him you are fine and curl up in your seat and watch the darkness through the window.


On the shore end of the bay bridge there is a church for every mile of highway until you reach the fields and then it’s dog-trots and wind turbines, once in a while a warehouse, a grain silo, a billboard advertising something that is miles and miles in the opposite direction. The Amish are selling strawberries, asparagus, and double yolk eggs on the side of the road.

My grandma justis (pronounced like justice) lived just south of here, which is also where my grandma Nellie grew up and where my great grandma hazel was born. Nellie ran away from home when she was a teenager and hitchhiked to pg county and did modeling. Hazel got tb and died in a convent/sanitarium in beltsville (or is it sanitorium? Idk I’m writing this on my phone in the middle of bumfuck Chesapeake country and there is no wifi I can use to look it up). Justis died here on the shore and left us her house. She was never married and she wasn’t really my grandma, just my grandma Nellies cousin. But we always called her grandma justis. I don’t know about nellies mother but knowing as my aunt says that the psychic gene skips a generation I imagine she had it.

The big story my shore relatives like to say is that during every hurricane, the water sneaks up into the coastal cemeteries and it makes the dirt soft and wet which, when the rain is coming down and the wind is blowing, will unearth the graves so that if you’re looking out your window at the storm you might see a coffin float by like a mallard on a river. The story is that sometimes they open these coffins after the rain is done to see who is inside, and sometimes they find scratch marks on the inside of the lid. The people here are obsessed with death and my mom says that’s where I get it from. they treat it lightly I think like they’ve seen a lot of it or like they don’t really believe in it at all.

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