Crossing the Chelsea highline was the final part of our pilgrimage back to Penn Station.
As we walked, we pointed at the buildings closest and wondered about the floorpans; would it be too exposing to have a home there? A breeze filtered through. It still wasn't too cold, and I folded my jacket up, wishing that she would tell me she was chilly and I could give it to her.
Above our heads, the trees and wisteria fluttered. Nature began to slowly lose its color as the sun slipped below the Hudson river, lighting the clouds into startling bright. We could see the Vessel now, hidden by a sort of mesh net. I said something, and she stopped to laugh, folding on herself. I laughed too.
I felt, in that moment, I would give anything to have her laugh again. But to my regret, there was no romantic attraction. Just floaty adoration for an old friend; the ephemeral and precious joy that comes from a successful adventure.
"In accordance with Henry Edward, angry people are "slaves to themselves""
I am angry. I hold it in my throat -- sometimes it escapes at the wrong times, earning me a weird look, or "your personality is so different from how you dress."
because I am sweet! and kind! I am gentle! I am lovely! I am 5 feet tall and I have the tiniest hands and I tremble when I lift a 2 pound weight. But after the lingering fear passes, I feel rage. I feel like, yeah, today is the day that I snap.
It never is. The day that I snap, I mean. I walk away and usually wish that I could extract my rage and just feel the sadness I'm hiding from. I've been feeling it recently, honestly. I'm sad that I feel so angry. I'm sad that I forgot
what it means to be a good person. I spend so much time thinking about people I don't like. I concoct fruitless revenge schemes, that exist mostly for my best friend to laugh at. I can't stop yelling when I'm behind the wheel.
The thing is, though, that I love so deeply it makes me cry most of the time. One of my oldest friends was just the lead in our school play, and I teared up all throughout the bows. She was the happiest I've ever seen her in a long time. I'd give a ride to anyone who asked. I'd bring soup for anyone who was sick. What do I do with that?
How can I be so angry at the world and yet want to cup all my friends' hearts in my hands like little birds? How can I lust for a fight, yet simply ache to lie down in someone's arms? I want to let down my guard. But I'm too scared to. I'm too angry to.
A Golem Story
The Golem isn’t used to these frantic, human affairs.
The train seat is not comfortable nor plush, not like the armchair in Chaya’s living room. It smushes the Golem together — their thighs press firmly against one another, and their arms take up the whole armrest. The train is not moving, but the lights flicker.
And, despite the many layers the Golem has been squeezed into (long socks, long pants, a stiff button-down, gloves, an old hat), they are cold. They have been cold since they came to life in a back Prague alleyway a month ago.
When they were awake enough to comprehend the fact that they were alive, they were propped up in the dining room with body form uncovered. Chaya was pacing in front of them, shaking her hands frantically. Little bits of clay kept flying off her fingers — little bits of proof.
The Golem felt something stirring in the front of their skull. They pinched the bridge of their nose, squinted their eyes shut; then they realized it was Chaya. The Golem could feel every bit of her racing-heart, short-breath panic.
Through the train window, the Golem can see the city. It rises like a sloping mountain. Orange sunset spills across the roofs, and harsh red flags stick out against the skyline. This flag has ruined the city. Blood seeps from the fabric to settle between the cobblestones. The air tastes sour, and people exhale vitriol.
At least, that’s what the Golem had been told. Later on the evening of their creation, Chaya sat down with them at the kitchen table. She got drunk on hard cider and told a winding tale of a dictator, a race of demon people, and a beautiful land which had been cut up and sacrificed. In her stupor, she spoke of it all like a fantastical nightmare. But when the moon turned the cobblestones to silver, and she was so tired that the Golem carried her up to bed, Chaya cried that she watched her people be picked off one by one.
After that, the Golem understood that the girl in their arms thought herself to be powerless. But they didn’t understand how she could find the guts to bring a myth to life if she thought so little of herself.
Chaya settles in the train window seat. She has wrangled her curls inside a thick, heavy bun. She continues to very purposefully not look out the window. Instead, she studies the ID card she had doctored for the Golem. Here, on this train, they are Josef Baum, Chaya’s cousin on her mother’s side.
The conductor comes into their car. The Golem’s head flutters as Chaya gives a sharp exhale. She whips around to watch the man as he meanders down the aisle, lazily asking for papers.
i vow to forget her -- starting tomorrow
Last week; I was in the imagined interior of some East Village bar -- a small brick building with a pride flag hanging cheerfully on the front. I've never been there. My ex slid off her barstool to meet me halfway. I don't remember what we said, but she cried, her red hair falling around her pale cheeks with a certain quiet desperation. I woke up with a wet face.
Golem story - first line
It was a dusty day, December 1938, and everybody in the Prague Jewish ghetto knew that snow was coming; the anxious tittering had started, and neighbors descended from their houses to fall upon the market like vultures to a carcass.
When I write about the rain
I am back in your room
Back in your bed
If I remember my dreams
Well, I remember you
Your dog chose me
And I was a good person
For a whole week
Waking up nauseous
Drinking peppermint tea
Oh, I wish I had known
Neither of us
Ever had the guts
Such a shame our twin cowardice
Each other’s hearts
you stuck a sticker to your boots --
a little golden star, innocent
and shiny, delicate against
it'll be gone the next time i see you.
but i'm glad i noticed it
on that cloudy day, all of us
silently reading, your star sticker
shimmering up at me;
the sun peeking out
from behind a curtain.
My dad blows out his birthday candles in one breath.
His smile lines
have started growing, inching
across his face, an invasive species.
What once were constellations
are now a dizzying reminder
that he is old,
Maybe the wrinkles
are the roots of his
soul, spreading out
across the soft pale soil
of his skin,
sinking into my memory
Love in the time of an Arctic Freeze
New York City is frozen.
My heart is not. It beats wildly in my chest, a pinball trapped between two columns, furious and frantic. My face burns against the gray winter air as I walk with Rachel to the 14th St / 8 Ave subway station. At this time of night, it’s quiet in Chelsea. I think about the summer, and how if I had known her, we could have walked the highline and gotten ice cream and stayed up until 1am.
The moon is full and blindingly bright. We’re not close enough for me to even think about reaching for her hand.
“So,” she says sweetly, with a teasing glance over, “when you get into Cooper Union, and become a famous architect, do you promise to build a statue of me right in the middle of the Jackie O rez?”
“Sure.” I laugh. “We can take the duck boats out to see.”
“Uh— yeah, the paddleboats, you know them. What, do they not have them at Central Park?”
“No, they just have rowboats,” she says, and dissolves into giggles. “Where are you from?”
“New Jersey,” I mutter, faux insulted. I nudge her with my shoulder. “Being a Brooklyn native isn’t something to make into your personality.”
“Oh, it totally is, Olivia! My dad’s email was literally brooklynborn.”
We slow our pace. She’s still laughing, blinking rapidly in the wind. “What even are duck boats? You’re not talking about those things in Boston that kill people on the daily, right?”
I roll my eyes. “No, not those. That’s Duck Tours. And they’re exactly how they sound, they’re paddleboats that you sit in and peddle with your feet and you can ride across the pond, but they’re shaped like swans.”
A pause. “Swan boats, then.”
We’ve reached the station. She takes her hands out of her pockets and wipes at her eyes with a groan. “Christ, it is so cold. I dunno how I’m gonna go to my grandparents’ after this. Like, during Hanukkah, it was like… negative eight degrees in Northampton.”
My smile, even as my lips tremble from the cold, is impossibly fond. I look down and hope she didn’t catch my softness. “Well, you could always stay with me.”
“I’m never stepping foot into New Jersey.” She reaches out to gently touch my shoulder. “I gotta go. Good luck with your test, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow,” I echo, and offer my arm out for a hug. She accepts, quick as a flash, then darts down the stairs.
I shake my head then go back the way I came, heading to catch the 1.
As a short form writer, I know that each word is chosen with extreme precision. While at a summer writing retreat, we did an exercise: whatever word count your piece was at, bring it down to 300, then 250, then 150, and so on, switching to increments of 10 and then 5. Once you got to 5 words, or even a single word you were hard pressed to decide the core of your piece. But that's what the exercise was meant to do: cut through the fluff of your story or poem and think of what you were truly trying to convey.
As others have already said, I agree that Prose needs a better editing system. But I also kind of like the blank format, and the vulnerability & trust that quick writing and next-to-no editing provides. My rawest work tends to come out of Prose, mostly because I'm not really censoring myself. Just as I'm about to post this without reading it over once. :)