No, this isn’t the story about the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. Don’t get me wrong, it was a singularly miserable experience filled with pain and tears, frustration and depression. But if you’re looking for “sorrow porn,” look elsewhere.
If you read the title and thought, “That sounds like the worst thing that could happen to anyone,” you would be partially correct.
For some people, suffering a spinal cord injury and becoming a paraplegic or quadriplegic is the worst thing that will ever happen to them.
For me, it wasn’t.
For starters—spoiler—I survived. I’m here typing this in…
This year, on the brink of my 40th birthday, I’ve begun to covet other men’s motorcycles.
Every time I hear a bike engine, that seductive grunt, I whip my eyes to the road. I want to see the bike, badly. I need to know, “Can I picture myself on you?”
I’m not interested in bikers. I hardly look at them. Some well-meaning folks endure their midlife crisis by ignoring the bikes and climbing onto these bikers.
I’ve heard that a lot of writers have a similar origin story: They’re reading a novel and suddenly stop. “Holy crap,” they say, “I can do better than this!” Then they close the book and sit there, or they fall down and lie there, dazed.
“I can do better than this,” they whisper. “I really can.”
This is my story. It happened with a book my mother gave me called The Strumpet Sea. I don’t remember the book, but I think it was about a strumpet and a sea.
By the way, what’s your book? Which one made you cry…
I can’t shake the feeling that no one really cares for me. I worry that everyone I know is just tolerating me until I go away or eventually die. This may or may not be true, but wherever I go, I can’t escape the feeling.
It’s possible that what I’m feeling isn’t completely personal to me. It may just be run-of-the-mill, normalized indifference in a world that has grown increasingly distant and isolated. I can’t really tell.
My sister-in-law and her family went on a trip recently and asked us to care for her daughter’s bearded dragon.
This dragon, a green guy with brown eyes, is still a youth, about seven inches long from the nose to the tip of his tail, though in 18 months he’ll swell to the size of a Tyrannosaurus-rex arm, one you can take out walking with a leash.
While he stayed with us, he lived in a big glass box on our buffet cabinet in the dining room. This changed our mealtimes slightly. Eating in the presence of a reptile makes…
Let me tell you why I’m like this. If you don’t know what I mean, that’s fine — you don’t know me, and I don’t expect you ever will. But I know me, and I know what I’m like, and now you’re going to know, a little bit, kinda. This is a story about a state the size of a postage stamp, wedged between New York, Pennsylvania, whatever’s south of Cape May, and the beautiful goddamn Atlantic Fucking Ocean. This is a story about New Jersey and me, and maybe you, if you’re lucky enough to be from here, too.
I love teaching Introduction to Creative Writing. It’s a wonderful triathlon: We start with fiction, then move on to poetry, and lastly we write stories from our lives. And I do my best to persuade students to abandon their hastily selected majors and join the writing program so they can help us uphold our time-honored tradition of disobeying our parents.
But this semester, something’s gone wrong.
I, a man who is more like Peter Pan than a man, have become the parent, and the students are my disobedient children.
How did this happen?
How is it possible that the lost…
“And besides,” he said, “your chin is on backward.”
The burly man with the accent-from-somewhere turned, almost looking dismissively at me — which, I guess, I’m used to — and smile-frowned. At least, I think he did; he was wearing a mask. And a spit shield. We used to put them on the faces of patients at the psych hospital — now people are just… walking around with them like it’s a pair of Oakleys. Of course, as a poor, nonprofit psychiatric hospital, we frequently ran out of spit shields (spitting is always tres en vogue at those kinds of…
I used to pray a strange prayer:
“Dear God, prune the roots.”
I saw my mind as a magical tree, but I feared it wasn’t mighty enough. What if it’s only a bonsai? I wanted God to go underground, down to the roots and trim them, snip off their tapered decisions to stop reaching, encourage them to dig deeper into the earth.
“But bonsais are so beautiful,” you say.
You’re not wrong. And I love you.
God’s pruning would make the root system vast. Imagine oceans of water sent up and up into the bonsai. It would have a choice…
“I’ve been canceled,” I announce to my Twitter followers the morning after the incident. My mentions light up immediately, the notification counter unable to keep pace with the condolences, likes, and retweets rushing in. While the comments start out as an unadulterated stream of sympathy for the ordeal I’ve just endured, the tone quickly shifts after a couple of hours to queries of next moves, potential Notes app apologies (over my dead body), and where to direct all the rage fermenting in the replies.
I assure my loyal fans — the meager several million I have left — that they…
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