She snorted, her lip curled.

Scorn dripped from her chin and burned holes in the tablecloth torching any hope we could be friends.

Most relationships come with expiration dates just like milk and bread. Some go sour before you can taste them.

offending professors

Young flesh perfumed with trust smells like fresh meat

to stalking professors

dreaming of the feast

it happened to me


One: at community college, my health professor invited me to celebrate the A+ he gave me for a paper I wrote about LSD

he said we could drink wine at a motel, his treat he said we would have awesome sex at the motel he said his wife was totally cool with him fucking students at motels when I declined the offer

and tried to leave, he chased me around the desk he blocked the exit

bullying me to at least make out with him I didn’t

Two: at Georgetown University, my department head

invited me into his office to discuss my need for a special scholarship to study in Peru.

To be able to translate Spanish, I’d need to live in a country where it was spoken I brought notes to the meeting, all my pla— he lifted his hand to interrupt me the department head said that we had been lovers centuries earlier

we’d been Aztecs, had sex in the jungle he said that we were cosmic soul mates and needed to have sex again, unite our bodies— I walked out before the ritual chase around the desk

Shielded by ivy curtains, tenured lions force their prey to sprint from the water hole in any direction that seems safe even if it takes them far afield from their goals he didn’t give me that scholarship I never studied in Peru

never studied in any country where Spanish is spoken

never became a translator

unless telling stories counts

grinding it out

I sailed to Georgetown University on a rowboat kept afloat by student loans and working twenty-five hours a week water rushed in the holes at the bottom so I bailed day and night,

just fast enough to stay above water worked as a lifeguard,

stayed in D.C. every summer

rented a cot in a hallway, stored my clothes under it then shared a small house with five people who hated each other

good times

sold Time Life books over the phone, a gross job but they let me call my grandmother every day and talk to her for an hour for free, instead of the thirty dollars

that daytime calls to Florida cost back then when minimum wage was $3.35 an hour you better believe I worked hard for them, I loved my nana

at college I skipped breakfast, ate an apple and granola bar for lunch and feasted at dinner; thank you, meal plan buffet at Georgetown I stewed my brain in German and Spanish

when Peru was taken off the table cuz of the predatory department head I earned a degree in linguistics, charting the transformation of languages over time, vowels waltzing, consonantly flirting words flinging open windows to the past I avoided studying literature and writing class married the sweetest guy I met there who loved overseas adventures and politics and looked really good in shining armor the marriage didn’t work; we were way too young, but he is still my dear friend I loved the ancient magnolia tree that grew next to the library

shading anxious students, perfuming the air inviting us to stand in her cool shade and breathe in: inspire, breathe out: expire, catch hold of our trueselves,

sew them tight to our shadows

before the pressure of performing blew us all away magnolia leaves are huge, waxy, shaped like rowboats

the perfect escape for a mouse or a small-feeling person

I didn’t need one, not anymore I was in way over my head at Georgetown but at least I knew how to swim

scratching my throat with a pen

After college, our wedding, after the babies came, we were so broke I had to get a night job cuz we couldn’t afford child care: I became a reporter

perfect work in the dark for a shy child beginning to clear her throat

Sewer board meetings—oh, the glamour!

and the stench of government corruption, small-stage culture wars on school boards, union officials who lied to me, straight-faced just like the mom who said her kid cut up his mouth on glass shards in his cereal total bullshit, she later confessed she just wanted attention and some cash I asked questions, took notes, wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote revised, sniffed out lies, unburied the lede, factual recitations

my specialty, I inquired

as required accidentally acquiring

a calling to listen very carefully and try to write the truth

cave painting

I’d been scribbling ever since Mrs. Sheedy-Shea taught me haiku: stories, poems, fairy tales, mysteries, gothic nightmares

and, occasionally, happy endings when I had babies I tried to write for them, too, I sucked

but persisted, resisting the temptation to quit I wrote picture books that sucked so bad

they were rejected over and over and over again but I persisted, enlisting new friends all of us thirsting to write and be read I pounded out novels and nonfiction, major suckage, constantly, appropriately rejected I freaking persisted, insisting I could figure it out

The stories, the words, the phrases coming out of the mists persisted, even when I wanted

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