Juliette sat with stuffed animals in the darkness. Her mother placed the cake on the table; a pink and white “9” rested in its center, providing the only illumination in the room. A droplet fell onto the frosting. Her father had just opened a window and finished taping another red streamer to the ceiling. He threw more confetti into the air, hoping she would become lost in laughter. Some of it landed on the cake, most of it on the table, and a few sparse circles covered the framed black & white photo of Elizabeth playing in a sandbox. A plate lay in front of it. Juliette saw the candle flicker in the glass, an orange streak of life in the space between them. They sat together and watched the flame as it danced around the wicker. When it suddenly leaned toward the photo, she took a deep breath and exhaled in broken increments. Her father blew his party horn, but all she did was smirk lightly, holding her gaze. Her mother cut the cake into quadrants and filled the plates. Juliette held out an arm for them to take, and they gripped their children with both hands, singing, “Happy Birthday,” knowing it was better to celebrate one more year than mourn the loss of five.…
The bulging moon sits like a giant Buddha belly, low in the sky, magnified by the
polluted atmosphere and bright lights of suburbia. From my view on the ground,
the branches of a weeping willow tree scratch across the moon’s surface, creating
open gashes, unhealed scars. The pond below me is completely still but for an
occasional ripple initiated by the soft autumn breeze.
I decide to memorize this image, to take a mental snapshot. My head rests on the
roots of a willow tree, turned left to face the moon. Blurry blades of grass invade
my peripheral. I shift until the moon is centered among the descending willow
branches, like bony fingers scraping across light. Satisfied, I let my arms flop
to the ground, palms up, summoning.
I burn the image into my mind. I take in the contrast of the bright bulbous moon
against the dark blue canvas, the eerie shadows cast by willow tree, the backwards
reflection of my friend in the pond. He is colorblind; I ask him to describe what he
sees. He is always seeing things so differently from me.
I am in love. But I haven’t admitted it yet.
It’s his birthday.…
If I were crazy—as in, my action potentials askew, my cranial nerves unnerved, a great
psychic disconnect between thought and reality—I wouldn’t linger at the train stop.
I wouldn’t stare at the sky and flex tinfoil over my head, or laugh fist-clenched at
a joke no one told. I wouldn’t argue the geographic advantages that the allied Germany
and Russia have in the fight against the moon, tell you about my drinking problem, or
wear my pants backward. If I were crazy—as in, the severe and repeated misfiring of
neurotransmitters in my head—I wouldn’t advertise it. I wouldn’t be involved in or be the
target of any national government conspiracy; there would be no men in black suits
watching from the bushes; I wouldn’t contort my face for my strange relationship to
germs or understand the long-winded allegories within words. I wouldn’t own dozens of
cats, or engage you in conversation about the time I spent fighting a non-existent war,
using sticks as automatic weapons or the one damn dirty bomb which blew off the
bottom part of my leg, recounting the severe casualties of fake and safe conflict.
I wouldn’t have dried blood on my jacket. I wouldn’t suck pennies for the coppery
taste or tell you about the sensors on currency which track every movement of the