the jewish literary and art magazine of columbia university
Allison Caplan, CC ‘11 editor-in-chief, layout editor Shira Pindyck, BC ‘11 literary editor Sarah Lipkis, BC ‘13 art editor Nick Bruscato, GS/JTS ‘14 events editor Alisha Kaplan, BC ‘11 editor-in-chief emerita
literary board Nick Bruscato, GS/JTS ‘14 Allison Caplan, CC ‘11 Emily Goldstein, BC ‘14 Alisha Kaplan, BC ‘11 Sarah Lipkis, BC ‘13 layout team Emily Goldstein, BC ‘14 Alisha Kaplan, BC ‘11 Sarah Lipkis, BC ‘13 Deborah Samuels, BC ‘12 Matthew Shore, GS/JTS ‘14 staff advisor Emily Finkel, Columbia/Barnard Hillel Program Coordinator
Avanim, a project of the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, is a literary and art magazine committed to the expression of Jewish experience through the publication of creative writing and art. We encourage you to contact us with feedback at email@example.com and to visit our website at http://avanim-magazine.blogspot.com. Avanim and Columbia/Barnard Hillel acknowledge the generous gift of the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation whose ongoing support has made this publication possible.
Cover: “Reef ” by Allyza Lustig, BC ‘11 For entire piece, see pages 23-24.
Table of Contents
1 3 5 7
13 15 17 19
Untitled by Alisha Kaplan, BC ‘11 “I heard a dog fart—/When I died—” by Juan Lamata, CC ‘10 Age and Youth by Anne Whitehouse, CU School of the Arts New Orleans by Allison Caplan, CC ‘11 Church (Latvia) by Anonymous A Jewish Environmental Ethic by Shira Pindyck, BC ‘11 Crowdedness and Intimacy by Andra Mihali, CC ‘11 Stocks or Something by Diana Clarke, CC ‘13 Learning to Walk Together by Andra Mihali, CC ‘11 Marketplace by Allyza Lustig, BC ‘11 Praha by Sara Zielinski, BC ‘11 Under-the-Neath by Alisha Kaplan, BC ‘11 Archway, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico by Matthew Sherman, GS/JTS ‘12 Untitled by Batya Weinstock, GS/JTS ‘10 Self-Portrait in Orange by Juan Lamata, CC ‘10 Untitled by Sam Kazer, CC ‘14 Over the River by Victor Uszerowicz, CU ‘80 The Market by Shira Schindel, CC ‘11 Reef by Allyza Lustig, BC ‘11 The Stone of Destiny by Alisha Kaplan, BC ‘11 Along Tzfat by Sam Kazer, CC ‘14 Sheep (Vermont) by Anonymous The Girls by Melissa Kravitz, GS/JTS ‘13 Pigeons by Matthew Sherman, GS/JTS ‘12 The Gift by Emma Rosenberg, BC ‘11
Untitled by Alisha Kaplan 1
“I heard a dog fart—/When I died—” by Juan Lamata
I heard a dog fart—When I died— On a Wednesday, like today, A day like all days In which dogs fart and people die. Down the crowded streets of dirty cities Men on bicycles will ride And deliver food with a side of news. Across the prairies of America hurtling dung Beetles will spread a grim tale And maybe mothers will cry. Juan Lamata is dead today. They hit him hard with salt fish and they Slapped him with ice. His testaments are cold feet, flashes Of ignorance, the way Delaware Blue cocks Crow at sunrise And don’t even know What name to give the sun.
Age and Youth by Anne Whitehouse
After dinner, in his dotage, Horace plays with the candle flame, watching it wave and flicker, poking it with the snuffer, nudging it to see how faint it will glow without going out. Old age was the terror most dreaded by the Romantics, who preferred death to its indignities, infirmities, uncertainties. They thought it better to blaze out like Acer: aged 27, handsome and tattooed with waist-length blond hair, he OD’ed one July night in a hotel room made over to one of his “hamster nests” lined with shredded phone books where he liked to party.
Anne Whitehouse is the author of the novel Fall Love, as well as several poetry collections and numerous short stories, essays, and feature articles. You can read more of her work at www.annewhitehouse.com.
New Orleans by Allison Caplan 4
Church (Latvia) Anonymous 5
A Jewish Environmental Ethic by Shira Pindyck I will be patient with you, imagine the finality in roasted roads, gasoline kisses. You, who birthed three children from cabbages in the garden, cut basil and chives from dry soil, sweat down to taproots, frozen potatoes, hibernating woodchucks, and point with skinny fingers to weeds that will strangle us out of our home. Because we have spent generations wandering, because we know that soil cannot be eaten. I will ask you to carry me on your barbarian back for a hundred years, hammering metal into the mountainside.
Crowdedness and Intimacy by Andra Mihali 7
Stocks or Something by Diana Clarke I iron the coats while they’re folded, because a nice crease makes me feel like waking up in the morning, and I figure that a room full of businessmen must feel the same way, not just liking creases but not wanting to get out of bed, because getting out of bed must be hard when your stomach weighs you down like a wet mattress. Klaus doesn’t think so, though, he thinks a jacket needs to be a little rumpled so that it’s easy to wear, because when you have to wear something every day, shouldn’t it be easy? So I mention cufflinks but he has no reply. Which is funny because after we take their coats we can see everyone’s cufflinks, and they’re all clinking together, big men at little tables bumping wrists by candlelight, and the whole situation makes me want to shower but I guess they have to do it because it’s important for stocks or something. Klaus has stocks, he calls up his investment advisor on Fridays, and over the phone they review the week’s reports and decide whether to put his life savings in tofu or cheap plastic dinnerware, and while I think more people probably use cheap plastic dinnerware, I hate imagining the sad fat families who only have themselves over for dinner, so I say Tofu instead. Klaus does this on his lunch break, so then it’s just me taking coats and giving tags and there’s this one woman who comes in for lunch twice a week, but she never checks her coat and so the only thing I know about her is that she doesn’t check her coat, I mean besides that I also know that the coat she doesn’t check is blue, I mean bright blue, and one time I saw her eating some soup. Most people who come to eat here don’t eat soup or even sip soup, but just say I’ll have what he’s having – yes, some people really do – and point their fingers attached to hands attached to cufflinked wrists at the steak the man at the next table is eating, or the table after that depending on whether they want it rare or welldone. By well-done I mean black, and by people I mean patrons, not customers, which we’re not supposed to call them because We’re Not Running Some Burger King DriveThru Joint. That was the first slide on the PowerPoint at training. They want us to understand that waiting means waiting on patrons, not waiting to be discovered, because Hollywood is 3,000 miles away and the only people who go to the theater any more are over sixty or else they’re just there to see a show based on a Disney film based on some gruesome Danish fairy tale, which is awfully fitting seeing as how you’re all a bunch of fairies, aren’t you. Our manager has all the Wodehouse books on shelves in his office and a pressed tuxedo hanging on the back of the door, I guess in case he ever has to do emergency
waiting, although we have busboys, I mean busgirls also, buspeople, for that, or in case he wins an impromptu Oscar or something, because I’m not really sure when else people wear tuxedoes any more. Klaus, actually, he wears one when he goes to events for his stocks, so he changes in the employee restroom, which unlike the one for patrons doesn’t see a janitor so often, and we don’t exactly get potpourri and fancy soap back there, so bringing in fabric that needs to be dry-cleaned is asking for funny smells, but when the other option is switching clothes out back with the junkies you take the smells and hope the stock brokers haven’t ever been to the kind of place that might lead them to recognize the odor of industrial soap. Klaus wants to be a stockbroker, this is what he tells me every day after getting off the phone and before reporting that tofu is down this week because the estrogen is giving men breasts and why would I think I know anything about stocks anyways because only one of us went to school for business and it sure wasn’t me. Klaus says stocks are going to get him out of the coat check, so that he’s the guy ordering the steak and sticking his coat with me and buying a martini for the girl in the blue coat, he says this because he hasn’t noticed that she never drinks, never talks to anyone but her waiter and even then while looking down at the menu like she’s still deciding, even though she orders so quickly that there’s no way that’s true. Sometimes I like to pretend Klaus is retarded, or even tell other people that, because obviously a retarded person isn’t going to be really good at their job, only sometimes people are nice and give them jobs so they can have money to pay the cable bill. Except that doesn’t make me feel so good, because if a retarded man is working the coat check then why am I here, coat checks are a place for people who are still in college or live with their mothers or are mentally retarded. But then I remember that Klaus isn’t mentally retarded but only kind of annoying sometimes. This is mostly when he decides to call his broker at lunch because their conversation fills up the coat check like smoke and I’m afraid it will singe the sleeves on the coats of the men who eat here so that they’ll begin to suspect sabotage, but mostly because the woman in the blue coat is quiet and sometimes Klaus makes it so I can’t hear her even though she says the same thing every time, always, Hello, table for one? So one Friday when Klaus is doing that, when he’s on the phone with his broker and he’s giving me the thumbs-up sign and mouthing walrus sushi or green denim?, the smoke
Learning to Walk Together by Andra Mihali 10
gets up in my nostrils and into my head because I never paid attention to all those elementary-school fire-safety rhymes about Smoke around, stay close to the ground or whatever, but instead of passing out I blunder through the furs like I’m on the way to Narnia and tell Leena I’m waiting tables today. The girl walks in right then and we bump, I mean she bumps into me, that is the door hits my back as she swings it open, turns, looks, apologizes, says, Hello, table for one? So I’m trying to remember that summer I waited tables at a diner in high school and pretending that the linen cloth is just formica tabletop, but formica sure never weighed down on your knees like that, and her knees are so small, and if I’m lucky maybe she’ll order fries and a coke although I’m pretty sure we don’t serve them here, which means I’ll have to figure out how to get a stacked beet-and-goat-cheese salad to the table without toppling it when my hands are shaking like they’re on a washing machine, although I’d never put my hand on one, not at my laundromat which is open all night but I try not to be there after 11 because in the morning there are sticky things on the machines and I try never to let myself wonder what they are. Anyway, about her: she does, she orders the goat cheese and then lentil soup like that other time, and she never even looks at the big beefy men with arms like linked sausages all around, and because she’s my only table and soup’s the fastest thing you can order because it’s been sitting around in a steam tray all day which is why nobody should order the soup because it’s bacteria by lunchtime I get it to her really fast which isn’t the way it usually works with a customer who only orders soup and a salad because the waiters know that’s practically no tip when there are four-tops to be served and fat men eating steaks, so it’s lucky for her that I’m not looking for a tip and lucky for me that I don’t spill a single drop of soup. It’s lucky for her dry cleaner that she doesn’t either, and her coat stays so clean that I know why she’s never checked it, my mother would be proud to know someone who could come out of a restaurant with clothing looking the same as when they went in because I am certainly not related to anybody like that. Also this is lucky for me, lucky because of course if we’re not related then it’s not weird when I write down my number on the bill, because while my last girlfriend will tell you that I’m into some weird shit I’m not into that and so I do, I scribble ten digits on the back of the slip reading $12.58 and slide it onto the table. She leaves cash and gets up with the bill still in her hand, glancing at it, but then she crumples it up and tosses it in the trash with the wrapper from the mint she picked up by the door.
The tip wasn’t so good either, fifteen percent, and I pocket it on the way back to the coatroom, where by now Klaus is off the phone but his thumbs are still up and he’s promising me that by fall this very restaurant will be serving bacon-lavender ice cream and the Times coverage is going to be phenomenal. I swear to him that I’ll try a bite when the time comes then check a quick coat and she doesn’t come back. Not even the next week, or the week after, or the week after that.
Marketplace by Allyza Lustig 13
With you so far away In a place you know now But remains unknown to me A nurse comes in each day A lot of times a day, I imagine.
Praha by Sara Zielinski
You were loving things and Maybe finding love Or someone to pass afternoons with, Introduce you to a faraway place, castles, Out there you’re seeing second hand chop shops And eating things in new ways with new friends. The city is yours. The bricks, the cold, signs, the accent marks we don’t know how to say Belong to you in my mind. Girls and I learned Flora, Tram 6 and 9, Changing at Mustek to get to the B. We learned them and could get off before Orhada Without being told. But for me you were telling. Each store I sought the name because each store Could have been The one near your home When it was your home. A boy gave me flowers, Gave me an appreciation for flowers. I’ve taken you out of context And now I can’t find you. I’ve wanted to buy flowers For my own room Since the day I learned where you are. I paint the lines and try to fill you in. You are you but not here, now. Here, now we are beside green metal grates They are not friendly. They are cold and heighten how hard-cold this is. You never told me Your city sold cannabis chocolate But I can’t tell you now. I can’t tell you things about your city.
Under-the-Neath by Alisha Kaplan A young woman becomes her grandmother’s teacher. Though the old woman, now near ninety, has lived in Canada for over sixty years, she still speaks with a heavy Hungarian accent and an inverted arrangement of words in which her granddaughter delights. “What for do I need that?” grandma will ask about a new skirt. “I can make it myself.” “Under-the-neath,” she will say where the napkin has gone. When her granddaughter calls to say she’s on her way over for their Tuesday night dinner, “Lovely!” grandma replies. She often uses the word, and, coming from her wrinkled throat, it always sounds lovely. “I’m too tired to write,” grandma says to her little girl after kokosh cake and compote. “That’s why you should,” replies the young woman. “Write me that story about your uncles, the ones who owned a printing press and book repair shop.” Grandma has told her how in the old country people kept things forever so they needed to get the spines reglued and knives sharpened and shoes resoled. “Tell me how they didn’t give a book back until they’d read the whole thing.” “For me it is too late,” grandma says. The young woman comes back the following week. After they clear the table, Grandma hands her a piece of lined paper with her large left-leaning script, barely legible. “I did my homework,” she says with a child pride. And the young woman is proud and embarrassed. The story begins with grandma’s father, a schoolteacher who was born in Serench and killed in Auschwitz. “Serench means luck,” grandma says. The woman already knows this and knows the town didn’t mean luck. The story goes on to list every family member, when they died and how. “Grandma, this isn’t what I asked for,” she says as kindly as she can. “I have an idea.You can write the one you love to tell about the crazy lady who went around saying, ‘To be beautiful you have to be born beautiful!’” But when the young woman returns the next Tuesday, Grandma has written the same story – each parent, every uncle and aunt and cousin and neighbor, even the cat who had no name, when and how.
Archway, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico by Mattew Sherman 16
Untitled by Batya Weinstock 17
Self-Portrait in Orange by Juan Lamata
I eat oranges like a monster eats children: peeling the skin before juicing dry the pulpy flesh. Though you could not say they cower, perhaps it is the fear which stuns them into still-life. Each discarded carcass testifies my hungry tyranny: I pile the peels in pyramids. Whole stretches of Florida laid waste, row after row of black marl trenches lined with the upturned roots of gorgon mangroves all crying the fruitlessness of labor; and still I donâ€™t think of the prickled hands that pick each thick orange for peanuts, or the softer hands that slice quarters in suburbs for halves. But I bite back the bittersweet and the citric stings with memories of minivans and moms and the orange tastes like candycorn Iâ€™ve eaten under autumn haunted moons.
Untitled by Sam Kazer 19
Over the River by Victor Uszerowicz Snow came early that winter. Friday night. The Sabbath candles lit. My parents done with another reminiscence session. I went to the window that looked out at the river and the cars crawling along the parkway and watched the flakes dying against the windowpane. Can what they said be true? Can you bury the dead in the snow? There were specials I could watch on TV, stories of Santa Claus and snowmen and penguins and reindeer and the beauty of the winter landscape, but I saw in the snow the silence of the dead buried beneath. I saw the Hutchinson River below, rank, murky, sneaking like a thief through the borough. A stinking river, a dump for every conceivable and inconceivable waste. Bluefish straying from Long Island Sound had once chased a school of herring into the river. The bluefish sensed the water’s foulness and turned around. Fearing consumption by their pursuers, the herring swam on, only to perish from a lack of oxygen in the water. They had ended up on the littered banks, their bellies exposed to the sun. The river paralleled the parkway and separated my neighborhood from the one crumbling on the other side. The rest of the Bronx lay silent in the distance, in the darkness, indistinct.
Over the river and through the woods To grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh Through the white and drifting snow.
The class and I sang these words in elementary school. All of them born here—like me. Their parents, too. Their parents’ accents were perfect; they spoke like the ones on the programs I watched. A mother from one of the programs became unduly concerned when her son, who had set up a lemonade stand on the block, knowingly used the lemons she had set aside for dad’s favorite pie. Then there was my mother, who had been concerned that she would be able to have a child at all. The gynecologist had informed her she would not, but my birth proved him wrong. While the parents on television in uninflected accents told their children fairy tales, my parents lulled me to sleep with stories of their arduous ordeals, which seemed to me more fantastic than any tale man could invent.
Over the river and through the woods Oh, how the wind does blow! It stings the nose and bites the toes As over the hills we go.
Winter had prepared its assault by cutting our supply of daylight. Lit in the cold, dark, early morning, the school building looked like the warm, inviting homes of the shtetl I imagined from their stories. We sang, our words rang out in the classroom, our voices carried along the corridors and down the stairs. I sat in the back, sang it easily, English my language, while at home there was another I understood but had trouble speaking, for it was one laden with bitterness and sorrow. My parents used their Yiddish to make their sad stories more poignant, the brutality more graphic, the incredulity more plausible and real. The middle of November. Every leaf had fallen from every tree on Pelham Parkway. Thanksgiving was near. The excitement of the class was fueled by visions of balloons and floats, and huge, roasted birds on finely laid tables. Our teacher spoke of the Pilgrims rung in by starvation, and how the Indians came to help them. I listened and thought them lucky. They had received their cornucopia. They had had a reason to celebrate. She played us a record and taught us the song and had us sing, and I sang, my voice strong, my body sound, but for me the words had no meaning.
Over the river and through the woods To Grandmotherâ€™s house we go.
She distributed blank paper and instructed us to draw a picture at our seats that illustrated the song.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh Through the white and drifting snow, oh!
She would display the best drawings on the bulletin board in the corridor. I watched as my classmates lowered their heads and started in on their task. I stared at the empty page, having no memory of a grandmother, and reluctant to sketch the images I did recall of a river, a horse, woods, and snow. I thought it best that they continue to remain hidden from the teacher and the class, as I had kept concealed from them my knowledge of the Yiddish. They were unaware of my disparity, and I was ashamed to reveal it.
She circulated amongst the desks to monitor the progress. I peered over heads and around shoulders to see their work. I saw stick figures in sleighs rushing over bridges and past barren trees, snowflakes as big as suns dangling in the air, a white-headed couple waving from the corners of the pages. What I could draw? A river? A river to me wasn’t just the Hutchinson. A river was an obstacle my parents said they had crossed. It had been a swift, churning river, the current up to their teeth, that it had been too deep to go on, but the sound of German from behind them had been too terrifying to turn back. Draw that? Or what I had inherited from them of snow, or horses, or woods? The teacher was beside me. She seemed surprised that I had not attempted any work. I told her I couldn’t think of anything. She wanted to help get me started. She asked me to think of my grandparents, and wanted to know if they were still alive. I shook my head. She said to think then about the times when I used to see them. What picture did I get in my mind? None, I replied. I told her I had had no grandparents. I apologized for it. She didn’t seem to understand. I said they had died before I had been born. She then asked why I was sorry. I was sorry, I said, because they had died in the war. I was sorry because I had never had the chance to go to my grandmother’s house. She fell silent and apologized as well. She suggested I try to imagine what it would have been like to have had grandparents. She seemed enthused by her idea and implored me to use my imagination and draw a picture. I took a pencil into my hand. I thought I would draw the snow first, and I filled the top of the page with small, distinct flakes. Drawing row upon row of snowflakes, some bigger, some smaller, I worked down to the center of the page. That would have been an appropriate point to begin sketching figures, but I went on with the flakes until the entire page was filled with snow.
The Market by Shira Schindel Walk past the shuk at 5 am on a Friday morning and you too will see that the Arab merchants arrive first. The mystery I do not know is that each merchant remains in their designated booth along the rows of covered and uncovered aisles of the marketplace, regardless of what time they arrive. “Ay Erad! Be careful! What will I do with this useless transporter boy?” “Ah Yossi! Where are you going? Melamud – did you see? The pink fish, it’s purple – no, no, there, yea there, watch out! Here, follow me – don’t kick those,” scolding, demanding, avoiding pigeons pecking at stray almonds and a bruised peach, bits of charred paper set aflame in the fire of the shwarma spittle, doused with tehina sauce to prevent an accident, bumping into strangers, carts, children’s carriages, a man holding a torah scroll, a man selling pita, a woman with red string, green peppers, yellow jacket wasp weaving, dodging through, an abandoned carton full of week-old flowers and yesterday’s newspaper advertising the rally – students against Olmert – rallies: always a rally – women against shas – against, against, for, on behalf of, in opposition to, in with, with, when a man in a muscle tee comes to move the trolley a lady feeling persimmons yells – “lo! don’t! Go away you son of a bitch” she yells, he yells, babies cry, tourists get bumped while looking, trying, tripping in puddles of a bum’s urine, of soggy vomit, of trampled pairs, of dirty rainwater – “it rained?” – “yesterday, in the middle of the day” – “praise Hashem” – “praise Allah” – “my cousin will be happy for his crop, for his children’s mouths,” for the country, maybe it would be better if everyone woke up before 5 am and arrived thus together.
Reef by Allyza Lustig 24
The Stone of Destiny by Alisha Kaplan
The Stone of Destiny: He smashed the portraits of his enemy’s ancestors and burned them in the Faerie Ring. Blasphemy of a level you cannot understand. We’ll go to the Hill of Tara. He met his first Jewess. It is okay to call you a Jew? A Jewess – that’s what his grandfather would call them, his grandfather who had never met one, who was from a small town and married his cousin.You make chicken soup; my Scottish friend will teach me to play the bagpipes. Happy out! he said to the pregnant lady. Beware of the Jew! the old man warned. Excuse me? The dew, beware of the dew.
Along Tzfat by Sam Kazer 26
Sheep (Vermont) Anonymous 27
The Girls by Melissa Kravitz
We thought that by making them our projects they would turn out okay. It all started with a white piece of paper, pull-off tabs, some interviews, and finally three babies. We thought that by giving them everything, from diapers to college scholarships, we could change their lives. We were so na誰ve. For the first year, we traveled to the unsafe, terrifying parts of town, carrying up pounds of formula and baby oil. We soon supplemented with Pull-ups, counting games, reading material, vegetables. Sometimes we would watch the girls eat their vegetables while we chatted about their dreams of becoming doctors or presidents or mall owners. Our projects in the projects seemed so hopeful. At the ripe age of five we began shipping them to the best educational institutions in the city, providing them with private tutors when necessary, fresh pens, crisp paper, stylish backpacks. All their needs were provided for. Their mothers, single and young, worked long hours for minimum wages, while the daughters unapologetically enjoyed their luxuries, never pleading for more, never even needing to. The girls all seemed fine. Ten years after they began at the most elite schools, the girls started receiving diapers and pacifiers yet again. Their clothing, dining, and entertainment budget disappeared as one by one by one they dropped out of prep school, never taking advantage of our handpicked SAT tutors, college counselors, funds for Ivy League Universities. We debated over what went wrong, what made our project fail, why the girls raised by girls wanted more girls. We thought about starting over, putting the college money into educational toddler movies, even better schools, fresher vegetables. But in the end we decided enough is enough, three girls in one generation is enough. A project will always be a project, nothing more, so we moved onto a new project, for entertainment, nothing more.
Pigeons by Matthew Sherman 29
The Gift by Emma Rosenberg
“It’s a pebble,” she said. He held it in the center of his palm, where the curve of his life line met the line of his heart. “Looks more like a rock,” he said. He laughed at himself and flipped the rock/pebble over. It looked the same on the other side – smooth, gray, boring. “I don’t get it.” “You don’t have to get it. There’s nothing to get. I just saw it on the ground and thought of you.” She walked faster. “You saw a rock…on the ground…and thought of me?” “You can throw it away if you don’t want it,” she said. She looked up at the sky. Gray, like a rock. “You can’t just throw it away,” he said. “Why not?” “I don’t know.You just can’t,” he said. He slipped it in the pocket of his trousers and it fell to the bottom. As they came closer to home, he searched on the ground. In someone’s potted plant, he saw a rock that looked green like the color of mold. “You can’t just give me one because I gave you one,” she said. She put the green rock back into its pot. The owner of the potted plant peered through her window. Potted plant theft was common. When they came home, he took off his pants with the rock still inside. They made a Spaghetti dinner – the sauce was fine but the noodles were slightly overcooked. He put the leftovers in the fridge and they made love. When they were done, they brushed their teeth and went to bed. In the morning, he put on the same pants, still on the ground in a pile where he left them. “What ever happened to the rock?” she asked from bed, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes with her fists. “It’s still here,” he said. He checked to make sure it still was.
He drove to work, the rock scratching his thigh through the lining of his pants. In the parking lot, as he turned the key to lock his door, a butterfly landed on the top of his hand. Deep purple with two yellow circles, like eyes. He shook his hand, but the butterfly stayed where it was. He imagined he must have looked funny – a man in a business suit on a Monday with a butterfly on his hand. He thought of her. He found a cigarette box in his glove compartment, and took out four cigarettes to make room for the butterfly. He could hear it flap its wings from inside. He left the box on the kitchen counter. On the back of a grocery list, with a sharpie they used for labeling Tupperware, he wrote, “For you—” He did not realize the counter was wet. “He got me a dead moth…in a cigarette box,” she said over the phone, scrapping at the note with a metal fork. Her mother sighed on the other end of the line. When she smoked the cigarettes, she could taste the wings.