Grandma Voicemail

gooThis is an actual message left today by my grandmother at 2:37pm. I’m pretty sure she’s on drugs.

Heyaaaa kiddo!
I see you called me the other day and we weren’t home. You didn’t leave a message. I saw your number on the caller …ID. How you doing? Gooood. We’re ok too. Hahah


I’m cooking clams now. The guy across the street gave me five dozen clams. Sixty clams. Now I gotta figure out what to do with all these clams. It’s too bad you’re not here to help me. I think I’m gunna-steam’em. I’m just jibber jabbering.

[background: Joanie! Where’s Jake’s leash?!]

Oooh my.

I’m reading that book you’re reading now, the president one. We can read it together. So much dirty sexy though. Slut, she is [note the Yoda-like syntax] tramping around with that boy’s brother.

[something metal drops]

I love you hunny, take care! Call me!



Amid the dark procession, hands clasped, my sister and I sat in the second pew. We wore our family’s heirloom pearls and jewels. As the oldest daughter, I wore my great grandmother’s modest engagement ring, “I will love you forever” engraved inside. The parishioners all turned to watch the most able men bear the palls, my father among them, the only one without a jacket, without cufflinks, in a tie that’s hasn’t been untied in 13 years. A man who had bore Life on his shoulders now struggled to pick up the Dead.

It seemed ironic.

There had been an ungraceful gospel, a halting homily. Standing, sitting, standing, kneeling. The pew creaked under the weight of my cousin Cindy, the adopted one, the one who had half her foot amputated. Green won’t take over us though, because we don’t really share blood.

I very much did not want to receive communion, but in the midst of your elders is not the place to dissent. I looked at my grandmother, all puffy and red-eyed, I rolled the diamond ring around my ring finger, and walked up anyway. Is it your left hand under your right hand or the other way around? I skipped the wine altogether. More irony. Reformed to an eight year old, I challenged myself to not chew the Eucharist, to taste but not swallow- in the Christian tradition.

Mass used to be tangible, used to make me holy by the transitive property, but all this education makes it so abstract. My body, his body. His blood, our blood, my veins. Your sins, my sins, Eve’s sins, my unborn child’s sin.

The stained glass window depicted the coil-haired Angel Gabriel delivering the news of child to the Virgin Mary.

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.”

All around the glassy Gabriel and Mary were eleven cherub faces, with wings sprouting from their ears. Missing unknit masses.

We oldest daughters were tucked under our father’s arms. Our younger sisters were tucked under ours. And our brothers sat solemn and strong, as if to prove their shoulders broad enough already to bear life under our father’s roofs and under our family’s name.

As a good Christian family we rose and prayed- the Blomquists, the Murrens, the Barkleys-nee-Barcowski’s together, bonded by deviled eggs, Easter eggs and not infrequently infertile eggs. I wondered what I would do when my own mother dies, if in that church I could smell flowers, of peach roses she’s so fond of.

I thought about the children I would knit in my womb, and the tiny booties I would knit for their knitted feet. I thought about my grandchildren who would come home to attend the funerals of aunts they barely knew. I touched my abdomen and felt the pains of knitting needles, I heard them clinking out the seconds.

I can’t say I much believe in faith, but I paid two dollars to light a little red candle- palm to palm and on my knees.



You look beautiful in the morning. It always seems to happen that I’m awake just before, early enough to watch your limbs stir to life; to hear your vocal cords vibrate and groan, your knee and neck joints click; to smell the sleep still on your breath, escaping from a mouth like a fruit ripe enough to split; to see your lashes shutter open, to see your lens focus and shoot from the safety of a comforter shelter. You look beautiful in the morning, all the night’s fa├žade streaked clean from your cheeks so that I can see your skin underneath. There are freckles only in the morning. I love the way your hair falls around your face unlacquered, wild and untamed. I love that I smell only you and not the things you wear.

You roll and stretch towards me. The sheets are unable to obscure the dip of your waist and the climb of your hips, wider than mine. Your browned shoulders are freckled too. There’s a scar on your right blade though I think you forget that it’s there. Skin pulled taut over your accented collar, like an emphasis in a language foreign, above a protruding bust that’s always warm. Two round breasts that know the calluses of my hands, that know the friction of my cheeks. Your form is more solid and more concrete than anything I have known. It is there and not all at once. I acknowledge you and I acknowledge what you are and where you are not.

We don’t say anything in the morning- just watch each other break into consciousness, break into the knowingness that our lives are fleeting and complex, that there is a parade of circumstance and we must march onward in step else risk tripping and scraping our knees, figuratively. I don’t care to sleep with you. I don’t care if you are there when I fall asleep or that you meet me in a dream-state Cairo. I care only that you open your eyes when I open mine.


Post Date Assessment: Copenhagen

Let’s review. He’s:
Tall, handsome, well-mannered and well-traveled, intelligent, established, educated and employed, accented and artistic

We met for coffee and found a bench at Rittenhouse, close enough to hear the Rastafarian music, but not close enough to smell it. We talked about dogs and the powerfulness of the Constitution (which he could passionately quote). About the Mediterranean (where he studied) and literary classics. He goes to church every Sunday and volunteers helping the homeless. He paints on the weekend and isn’t shy to sing a verse of a song I’ve never heard. He even forgave me for my Copenhagen Lie.

He suggested I go to church with him sometime, that he teach me to paint, to speak a little Norwegian. Upon hearing that my parents are still relatively young, he said that I would have to start soon to keep up. Yes, he suggested that I start a family soon. And talked about the importance of commitment in a relationship.


And yet I am so dissatisfied, because I am not disappointed. I dread that he might call again, and ask for more, for dinner at least.

This dating deal is like groping the bathroom cabinet above the sink looking for Dimetapp.

You drink it down because it’s supposedly good for you, because it’ll cure your malaise and make you feel better. But before you even bring the little plastic cup to your lips, you know it’ll throw your stomach into knots. It’ll make your body cower and stomach churn. It’ll feel…medicinal. But you do it, because they tell you that it’s good for you.

You do it because you’re hoping that you’re feeling a just a little cold.


Copenhagen, Sweden

Finals week is upon me, and of all the things I would like to be on me, this is the least preferable option. I woke up late Monday, and enjoyed the holiday from the 12th floor lounge in my pajamas. There I worked a feverish four hours of final-paper-writing. And to applaud my commitment to academia and my own personal integrity, I took the rest of the afternoon off, and spent it reading in Rittenhouse.

I wasn’t even there for a hot minute before a godly-looking man came up to me and asked me my opinion on his painting. I don’t think I even really looked at his painting because this man was fucking beautiful. A perfect smile, blue-eyed and light haired, which is totally not my bag, but I want it like Fendi.

(I don’t own a Fendi. I don’t have a bag in my possession that cost more than $15, but it sounded good so I’m rolling with it… like Mercedes)

I said that the lighter leaves painted in the background make him look almost glorious, that the details, though obviously difficult, were beautifully executed. I thought this was a very astute observation until he said:
“Well, it’s a woman”


“The statue. It’s a woman”

“Oh. So it is”

He tells me about the sculptor and we bullshit a little. I deduce that he’s Norwegian, which would explain his sexamaholic accent and he works for some Norwegian firm here (read: employed). And I say, “Oh Norwegian. My family is Swedish.” This is 25% true.

And he remarks how beautiful Sweden is and I say, “Oh, I know.”
This is about 50% true. I don’t really know what Sweden looks like, but 25% of my people came from there so it must be okay.

“I just got back from there”
THIS IS A COMPLETE LIE: 0% true. I don’t even know why I said such a thing. I was so mesmerized by this European-ness that I wasn’t thinking at all. The fitted shirt, the peeking chest hair, his canvas slip-ons. To boot, I think I started imitating his accent.

“That’s fantastic! Where did you go?”

And then I realize that I don’t even know the capital of Sweden, nor can I think of a single city, because I’ve never been there. Ever.

“Uh, Copenhagen”

“… That’s in Denmark”

“Yeeaaah, but that’s where we flew into and then we drove”

“To Sweden.”

“Yep. Swedish… countryside”

“I love the Swedish countryside!”

At this point, I’m mortified, but three kids on a skateboard roll into our legs, cleverly distracting him from my floundering. Looking back, I think this was an omen that I would have lots of babies with a successful handsome Scandanavian man, just like Daddy wanted. Besides, I’ve dated musicians and poets and those didn’t work out so well, and certainly no one’s ever painted me a picture.

He gave me his number and name, Arne (pronounced Ar-nay) and we parted ways. And he said something to me in Swedish, but I didn’t understand because, again, I’ve never been to Sweden.

When I got home, I consulted a map and it turns out that Sweden has lots of cities, including its capital Stockholm, and it’s right next to Norway, where he’s from. Also there’s a big fucking ocean between Copenhagen, Denmark (which is on an island) and Sweden.

A big fucking ocean you can’t drive on.


Chapter Three: Burma Hot Dog

On a sliding scale of bitterness, I would say I’m around brussel sprouts sans butter, which is actually not that bad for a Sunday. My grandmother called to tell me all about what she had for dinner with Jack and Jane, and Lew and Lynn; about her rheumatoid arthritis; that persistent bruise; about the creaking in her hip; about what she had for dinner with Jack and Jane, with Lew and Lynn.

After the Manchild woke up, I sent him out for cigarettes, because we’re beyond faking our addictions. Among our favorite vices now are: chain smoking, covert solo drinking, meaningless sex, and spicy chicken sandwiches, extra mayo. (The extra mayo part makes it a deadly sin. The pickles just make it gross). Oh, these are a few of our fav-o-rite things.

We made it out of our flea motel by noon and went to Disney for the day. I know we’re old. I don’t really have an excuse for going.

That’s the end of that part of the story.


There’s a reason why Burma only gets a hot dog cart in Epcot.

And that reason is rampant intestinal plagues.

When you are helplessly and hopelessly dependent on another human being for your survival, you know you have been humbled. This power is horribly abused when said Other is dangling a bottle of pepto bismol over your head bargaining the confiscation of your cigarettes because even smoke is making you puke. And honestly, they’re probably just tired of hearing your dry heave, but this person does not respect you.

But they probably do love you. As a girl, when you can finally number two in the same living space as the person you’re dating-but-not-living-with, it is love. They don’t even necessarily need to be home for it. Sure, it might be love if there’s a diamond ring, or poems, or sex where afterwards you really do want to cuddle, but the proof is in the pudding. (Emergencies do not count, though they are hilariously mortifying)

Example: in college I dated someone whose testament of love was the unconditional acceptance from his stepsister. I never really got that far, but I did poop while he was at work. Thusly, I can say, without shadow of a doubt, that I was definitely in love and if his sister weren’t such an overbearing cunt of a skank who can’t take even take a fucking joke, we’d be happily married with our retarded Shiva babies, and our white picket fence, and our dogs that we let piss all over the carpet.