LJI Week 6: Food Memory

“Here, take this,” I said, reaching out to pass the lit joint to Dave. He took it from me as I exhaled and watched the smoke billow up in front of my face. Dave nodded and smiled at me approvingly when he saw how much smoke there was, telling both of us how big of a hit I had taken. We both knew that I was still kind of a noob at this whole smoking weed thing, but with Dave’s help, I was quickly making up for lost time.

For as proud as I had been over my “big” hit, Dave took that moment to start exhaling smoke rings. He grinned at me after he was done. Fucking show-off. I would have tried the smoke rings myself on my next hit, but I already knew that I would begin to choke and launch into an awful coughing fit. I’ll leave the tricks to him for the time being.

As we passed the joint back and forth, I played YouTube DJ. Although we had watched this and this a million times to this point, they never seemed to get old. We knew Charlie bit my finger line by line, and exploded into insane pothead giggles every time the baby laughed at the end.

We finished the joint, and I was in a good spot. Man... I was in a good and comfortable spot. The two of us were cramped into Dave’s bedroom in his apartment, and his windows were open to let in the air of a unseasonably cool summer night in New Jersey. I liked his room; it was small and cozy, and quite honestly, as long as I had enough room on the floor to sleep off the coma that I would eventually put myself into, I didn’t really care much after that.

“T,” Dave called. “We should get food soon.”

I didn’t respond immediately, as I was still completely zeroed in on the video I was watching. Food was a good idea though as it was well past dinner time. I had driven up to Dave’s apartment immediately after work, and hadn’t the chance to eat since lunch. I guess I knew not to snack in between lunch and dinner today, because Dave and I always contracted notorious cases of the munchies when we smoked, and like two lazy college kids with some expendable cash, we always went the take-out route.

“Yeah,” I eventually answered. “We should get food. What do you want to order?”

“I wish we could get Hansel. I miss their food.”

Hansel N’ Griddle was one of our, as well as New Brunswick’s, favorite food spots, and without fail, whatever you’re in the mood for, they’ve got it on the menu. When Dave and I were still roommates in “the Brunz,” Hansel saw a lot of our mostly-hard-earned money whenever we wanted food. But since Dave moved a half hour north to Elizabeth, our local take-out choices have been mostly Papa John’s and Domino’s.

Dave continued. “I wonder how much we could pay them to deliver up here,” he laughed.

“How about this?” I started. “When you come down to my apartment again, we can get Hansel then.” I smiled, mostly because I was feeling my high really start to settle in, but I still wanted to get something to eat, and of course, smoke some more before I became completely marijuana-catatonic.

Right then, my brain decided to kick into overdrive as I recalled the different sites and stores I had seen when I was driving to Dave’s apartment for the first time. The store was a bright spot in the strip of businesses on the block, and from what I recalled, this store served Latin-type food. It would certainly be worth a try, I decided.

“There’s this place up nearby to here. I saw it when I was driving here once. We should try that place,” I said, turning away from the computer and catching Dave rolling a another joint and packing a pipe with more weed. My favorite pothead, always prepared.

“Should we drive?”

“No, dude, we’re too high for that. And it’s in walking distance, and Lord knows we could use the exercise.”

“Do you know where it is?”

“Yeah, it’s up on Elizabeth Avenue somewhere, it’s not far.”

“Let’s smoke first.” Dave offered me the packed pipe, but I refused.

“No, dude. It’s nighttime and we’re in Elizabeth. I don’t want to be completely ridiculous walking up the street.”

“But I have you to protect me!” He laughed.

Dave was a big goofy-looking white boy living in a rather seedy area of town, and so it was our running joke that since I was a black girl with dreadlocks, I blended into the town fiber a little better and would therefore keep both of us safe. Even still, I was of the personal belief that, no matter where you are, as long as you look like you know where you’re going and what you’re doing, nobody would bother you. That included looking aware too, and since I had no idea what I looked like when I was stoned out of my mind, I decided that I would save that experiment for a place that wasn’t dusk falling on the streets of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

“And besides that,” I continued, “there will be more for us to smoke when we get back. How’s that sound?”

And so we began our trek to the bright yellow store that allegedly served up Latin-style food. When we arrived at the shop, called Banana’s King*, we were more than pleasantly surprised. Even though our fifteen-minute walk from Dave’s apartment had brought us back down closer to Earth, we still found ourselves fighting to stay alert as we decided what to order. Eventually, I decided on a shake and an arepa with some sort of beef concoction in it. I think Dave opted to order the same.

Excited over our newest food venture, we headed back to Dave’s place. We settled in again by queuing up a few episodes of Family Guy, setting out our food, and taking hits of the pipe that he packed prior to our departure.

“Let’s eat,” Dave said, “before it gets soggy or something.”

He didn’t need to tell me twice. My stomach was already growling loudly at that point. I took my first bite into my sandwich, and it was like heaven exploded in my mouth.

“Oh my goodness,” I exclaimed. “This is fucking delicious. I think we just found our new spot, dude. This is fucking good, even without the weed,” I joked.

“Yeah, T, good looking out on that place. We’ll have to go there again when you come back up to visit. Hansel doesn’t have anything on Banana’s King,” Dave replied.

“Now, don’t go getting hasty in that assessment,” I smiled. “We’ll see when you come down again.”

With that, Dave clicked play, and the Family Guy theme song blared as we settled into munchie bliss.


A/N: Names have been changed. Also, I'm not sure if the Banana King corporate website is associated to the one that we went to in Elizabeth, but it was still delicious nonetheless.

LJI Week 4: What does narcissism have to do with me?

I rolled my eyes at the newsstand’s shopkeeper after he commented on the magazine that I had picked up. It was the latest cover of Vibe, and on its cover was a bare-chested rapper whose stage name is Dre Lover.

“Dre Lover,” the shopkeeper said with disgust in his voice. “My daughter listens to his trash, and I can’t stand it.”

I know that he was looking for looking for a response from me that would support his opinion; after all, I look like I just stepped off of a trading floor on Wall Street. I was wearing a pinstriped pantsuit, rectangular-shaped frames, and I had my long brown hair tied up into a tight bun. I was holding a coffee from Starbucks in one hand while digging through my laptop bag for my wallet to pay for the Vibe magazine.

I suppose the cover my hypothetical magazine cover screamed educated, well-to-do, and maybe even a little bit bougie. What was I doing, spending my money to support a man whose lyrics are slightly violent at best, and straight up sexist and misogynistic at worst?

I handed the shopkeeper a ten-dollar bill for the magazine, and said, “Dre Lover is my husband. Keep the change,” before heading off in the direction of the subway. I didn’t bother this time with staying to see his reaction; I already knew that he would be picking his jaw up off the ground as I walked off.

Yeah, I said it. I’m Dre Lover’s wife. However, I should note that I didn’t marry Dre Lover -- I married Andre Wright seven years ago, during the summer between our junior and senior years of college. We’ve been happily married ever since.

My husband leads a double life. He’s a controversial rapper by day, and a rather quiet and well-mannered husband and father by night. Sometimes, I still have to stop and actually think about my husband’s rise to fame in this world, the one full of thumping club beats and tongue-twisting lyrics.

You see, Andre studied chemistry in college, and he has his Bachelor’s degree in the subject, along with a minor in creative writing. But of course, that’s something that the magazines and the pundits often fail to mention when criticizing his lyrics, and more importantly, his entire persona.

Most of his writing came in the form of poetry, and soon enough, written word turned into spoken word. I remember the first night he got on stage at an open mic night, and I watched my shy, soft-spoken boyfriend turn into a completely different person before my eyes. His rhymes came out bold and confident, and I can remember chuckling at the fact that he rapped about ‘hood life, even though we both knew he grew up in a big house in the ‘burbs.

The audience loved him, and so did the owners of one of the small record labels in the area. They wanted to sign him -- well, they didn’t want to sign Andre -- they wanted to sign somebody hard, somebody bad, somebody the groupies and the neighborhood hoes would be attracted to. And thus Dre Lover was born.

Right before he signed, Andre asked me how I felt about him joining that label. We were engaged at the time.

“Babe,” I said to him, “How does being on stage make you feel?”

“Honestly, it makes me feel powerful,” he said slowly. “It makes me feel like I’ve captured the world’s attention. I love it.”

“Do you want it?”

He stayed silent for a moment. “Yeah, I do. It would be fun to be Dre Lover for a few years, I think.”

“Then you’ve got all my support,” I said, inching closer to him, and planting a kiss square on his lips. “Do what makes you happy, I’ll be right here for you.” Andre smiled at me in response as I got serious for a second. “Just don’t let me catch you fucking those groupie hoes, you hear?” I said.

“Tami, you’re my one and only,” He replied, and then kissed me again.

I trust that I am his one and only, I do.

Granted, I’m home with our daughters when he’s on tour, so I really have no idea what kind of stuff he’s getting into when he’s performing. We also try to do our best to shield them from Dre Lover’s lyrics and music. It’s getting rather difficult though; part of their dad’s persona is touting the fact that he’s the “greatest rapper in the world” and that he will forever live the single celebrity life. In his music videos, he’s regularly making it rain on bitches. His face and his music are splashed across the television and the computer, and his songs are on heavy rotation on all of the hip-hop and pop stations.

Even though he would never let him get caught up in the thug life that he raps about, I’m growing concerned about how his lyrics may affect our daughters later on down the line. In fact, our oldest, Tasha, who is five, is beginning to recognize that man who looks like her daddy, but somehow she’s deduced that it can’t be him because he would never raise his voice like that. I’m trying to keep that thought in her head for as long as possible, but it’s getting more and more difficult.

I know that, even after all of the these years playing Dre Lover, Andre would never let the celebrity status go to his head. As a matter of fact, he tries to hide it when he’s not on tour. Whenever he’s home, he sheds the doo-rag, the jewelry, and the baggy jeans and gladly trades all of that for a pastel-colored polo, a pair of Dockers, and loafers, and we hang out at the park just like the rest of the Jack and Jill families in our neighborhood.

See, I don’t want to take away my husband’s power, that force which makes him truly happy, because when he’s happy, I’m happy. But I’ve got to think about our daughters; I want them to have a healthy relationship with their father... without the lyrics about guns, drugs, and sex.

Dre Lover is on tour right now, but Andre will be home with his family in a week. I’ll talk to him about my concerns then. Here’s to hoping I can get my husband, the loud, vulgar, and overly self-centered rapper, to turn into my husband, the quiet, well-meaning chemist.

LJI Week 3: Coprolite

Teresa, startled, dropped the metal spoon she had been washing into the sink. It made a loud clatter with the other dishes as her roommate Jessica continued to guffaw, seemingly out of nowhere.

“Holy shit, Jess, you scared me! What is so funny over there?” Teresa threw her sponge into the sink and turned around to face Jessica.

“Ooh, sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Jessica said, trying to regain her composure. “It’s just that...” she laughed, “I found something really funny in my old AIM chat logs.”

Teresa’s eyebrow went up. “Really, Jess, you save those?”

“Yeah, they’re good for reference and research purposes sometimes.”

“Reference, huh? You’re laughing kind of hard over there at something you ought to be researching.”

Jessica smirked. “I mean, nobody said it was official or anything. Basically, I need to challenge something that Michael said to me last night with something else that he said to me in IM a few years ago.”

“And that is why I wish people would delete that sort of thing! I don’t like the idea of having the shit I say immortalized, only to be resurrected when you feel the need to prove me wrong on a point,” Teresa exclaimed.

“Sweetie, what do you call Facebook, then? That’s your entire life for the world to see, and you know it.”

Teresa rolled her eyes. “I have some control over that, at least. And besides, what’s the appeal with you and keeping the chat logs anyway? I used to keep them, and then I got sick of reading what 19-year-old me had to say. She was a whiny bitch, and I’m glad I’m past that part of my life.”

Jessica sighed. “I mean, aside from the fact that they’re generally good for a laugh... it’s like I’ve kept this huge, electronic diary of my relationships with different people. The chat logs give me a way to see how these relationships have evolved... and devolved, in some cases.

“When Michael and I first started talking, he was weird and all he did was send me links to different comics, and I couldn’t understand why he did that. I didn’t pay it any mind at the time, but when I went back and read the logs about two years later, I realized that he was sending me comics based on the mood of my away message at the time. If I had a sad face up, he’d send me something that would make me laugh. If I was bitching about homework, he’d send me something that always made me feel like I could conquer my classes.” She sighed again. “Man, he knew exactly what he was doing. It just took me about two years to catch on. See, look at this one -- I had forgotten about until just now.” Jessica pulled up the log for Teresa to read.

Jessica: this kid sends me comics
Jessica: all the time
Jessica: never words, just comics
Jessica: i don’t get it
Teresa: what did he send you this time?
Jessica: http://xkcd.com/473/
Teresa: haha, that’s cute
Teresa: and nerdy
Teresa: lol
Teresa: you should marry him
Jessica: lol
Jessica: no

Teresa gave a small laugh. “Oh right, I remember that! What away message did you have up when he sent you that one?”

“Oh, I don’t know, some link about re-instating Pluto as a planet.”

Teresa raised an eyebrow.

In response, Jessica said, “I know, I know, being observant isn’t exactly my strong suit. But even still, I suppose that that was his way of speaking to me without actually using the words. Looking back, it’s kind of sweet. It’s crazy too, though. I just read through five years’ worth of logs I have with Michael, and it’s tangible evidence of how our relationship has progressed. It’s all right here, just like a diary or journal or something.”

“And now the two of you are engaged. See, I totally called it!”

Jessica smiled shyly and bit her lip. “Yeah, you did call it way back when, and we’re actually getting married.” She turned back to her computer, and went to retrieve another set of logs. “Ha, look at this; I forgot about this one, too.”

Jessica: T
Jessica: can you do me a favor?
Teresa: what’s that?
Jessica: i’m applying for this job
Jessica: i need a reference
Jessica: i’m gonna list you, k?
Teresa: lol
Teresa: i love how you didn’t give me a chance to say yes
Teresa: so just for that
Teresa: when these people call me, i’m telling them that you’re awful and that you’re a weekend alcoholic and that you’re one debaucherous bitch
Teresa: but you’re my best friend, and i want the best for you, so i will tell them of your awesomeness too
Jessica: aww, i love you =)
Jessica: but i’m pretty sure debaucherous isn’t a word
Teresa: whatever =P

Teresa laughed after she finished reading. “I’m glad my vocabulary has improved since then. What in the world was going through our heads when we were twenty?”

“I don’t know, man. You’ve got me. But you have to admit, these are kind of fun to read, right?”

“Ehhh, Jess, I’ll give you that they’re funny, but I’d still rather leave twenty-year-old me back in 2006 where she belongs.”

Jessica turned to Teresa and said, “Well, that’s alright. I still have a record of 20-year-old you and 20-year-old me and I will gladly relive those moments right now and tease you mercilessly for them.”

Teresa rolled her eyes. “Jeez, aren’t you supposed to be looking for something for Michael instead? What nonsense was he talking now that you needed to contest?” she asked, heading back to the kitchen to finish washing her dishes.

“Ah, so... I lied. For once, I don’t actually need to prove Michael wrong on something. I’ll tell you what I’m doing, but I need you to keep it a secret!”

“I won’t tell a soul.”

“So, all of those comics that Michael sent me way back when? I want to collect all of them and print them out and make a scrapbook of the two of us that we can keep adding to after we get married.”

Teresa broke out into a huge smile. “Oh my goodness, Jess, that is beyond adorable!” She sighed. “Alright, I take it back, I guess your chat logs are good for something after all...”

LJI Week 1: When you pray, move your feet

The sun was beginning to rise as Reyna slowed down to a stop from her morning run. She lifted her leg to rest her ankle on the top of a park bench, and leaned over and began to stretch, feeling the relief in her muscles. She stayed in that position for a full thirty seconds, and straightened up to find a man next to her. He looked to be finishing his morning run too.

Reyna was startled; she was surprised that she didn’t hear him come up next to her, especially given that she had left her headphones at home that day. As one might have expected, her initial instinct was to run from the strange man, but she reasoned that she was still in the middle of stretching and that she could take off if she truly needed to.

The man looked to be in his late thirties or early forties, with salt and pepper hair, even if there was more salt than pepper. He gave a wide smile as Reyna said hello and switched her legs on the park bench. The man seemed friendly enough, so she stayed in her spot and continued to stretch her legs.

“You’re looking pretty good out here,” the man said.

“Thanks,” Reyna replied, still bent over the bench.

“How long have you been running?”

After a few seconds, Reyna stood up straight and took her leg off of the bench. “Not long,” she said. “Maybe a few months so far. What about you?”

“Oh,” the man chuckled. “I’ve been at this for some time. What’s your name, sweetheart?” He asked in a soothing voice.

Reyna looked up, slightly surprised. While she recognized most of the runners on her daily route, they almost never took the time to stop and ask her her name. Generally, they smiled, waved at each other, and kept running. But today, here was this man that she had never seen before, and she had already exchanged more words with him than with any other runner that she had met before.

“My name is Reyna,” she said, trying not to reveal her nervousness. She then reasoned that maybe he was new to the area, maybe one of those overly friendly Midwesterners or something, trying to make small talk. Didn’t the man realize that this was the city, that nobody actually talked to one another?

“Ah, Reyna,” the man continued. “What a beautiful name.”

“Thanks,” Reyna said quietly, trying to walk back in the direction of her apartment.

“So, tell me, Reyna, why do you run?”

“Well, hmm,” she started, trying to come up with a good answer to his rather abrupt question. “Running is an easy and cheap way to keep healthy, I guess,” she eventually mustered out.

The man shook his head. “No, no, no. Everybody gives me that stock answer, about health and fitness. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s a good reason to run, but you can do any number of things to keep fit and healthy. You can play football or, or jump rope or get on the elliptical at the gym or anything.” He began to walk with her. “Tell you what, Reyna? Let me buy you a cup of coffee, and you can tell me the real reason why you run. Do you have time for that before work?”

Reyna let out a laugh before she could stop herself. “Work,” she said to herself, still chuckling. “Yes, sir, I do have time for a cup of coffee.”

And out of nowhere, she no longer felt the need to run away from the man. Granted, for all Reyna knew, he may have been a dirty old man trying to do anything to get into her pants, but the velvet sound of his voice relaxed her, and somehow she felt safe around him.

Reyna and the man walked silently to the coffee shop just outside of the park. He ordered her a coffee, and she looked on skeptically when she realized that he ordered it black with two sugars -- exactly how she liked it. Still, she chose not to question it.

The man handed Reyna the cup of coffee, and they sat down at a table by the window, looking out at the people on the busy street.

“Reyna, what time do you need to be at work this morning?” The man asked, looking at this watch. “It’s already going on 7:30.”

She smiled. “Ah, see, that’s the thing. I’m currently unemployed, but I am looking for a new job.”

“Oh no, how long have you been without work?”

“About five and a half months now.”

“I see. So, Reyna, tell me the real reason why you go running,” the man said, cutting right to the chase.

“When I lost my job, I was frantic. I had no idea how I was going to pay my bills, and I began applying to jobs left and right. I’m pretty sure that I half-assed a few of those applications, but I was just hoping that somebody would give me a call, and that I’d be able to continue with my life as normal.”

The man nodded, and Reyna took that as her cue to continue speaking. “After about three months, I started losing my mind with the stress and the boredom. Unemployment barely covers my rent and bills, and there was this one day when I was absolutely beside myself. I couldn’t do anything. I felt powerless to change anything, quite honestly. And on that day, I put on a pair of old running shoes I had and just began to run. I ran and ran and ran until I felt better... like my head was clear. It was the first time I felt that calm in months. And then I got up the next morning and ran again, and then rinse and repeat, and here we are now.”

“Well, I know that you don’t run all day everyday, so what else do you do each day?”

“I keep job-hunting. But now, since I can manage to keep relatively calm despite my yucky financial situation, I apply to one job a day, and I spend a good amount of time on each application and each cover letter. I want to make every effort count, and I just hope that something will pan out soon. Unemployment is gonna run out soon enough.” Reyna laughed, even though they both knew that her situation wasn’t funny.

“Do you pray at all, Reyna?” the man asked abruptly. His question caught her off guard, and she hoped that he wouldn’t try to invite her to church or push a bible at her. However, she took an extra second to mull his question over. After all, he bought her a cup of coffee unexpectedly, and it was exactly how she liked it. The least that she could do in this case was be honest with him.

“See,” she started slowly, “I don’t think of it as prayer, per se. I don’t go to church or anything, and I’m not terribly religious. But sometimes, I like to think of it as sharing my thoughts with God or something, and my deepest thoughts usually come out when I run. I think about what frustrates me, what bothers me, and I think about what I need and what I’m thankful for, and when I do share with God and talk to Him, I talk to Him like... like I would talk to a very important friend, if that makes sense.”

The man nodded. “It makes perfect sense.”

Reyna paused for a moment, having reached her own revelation. “I guess you could say that I pray when I run,” she said. “When I feel like I need to pray, I go for a run. I suppose that that is why I run, sir.”

“Very well,” the man said, nodding his head approvingly. He looked at his watch, and although only a few minutes had passed, he got up from the table, and reached out to shake Reyna’s hand. “I must get going, Reyna, but I wish you well in your job search.”

Reyna shook his hand, and said, “Thank you again for the coffee, sir. Will I see you out there tomorrow morning?”

He smiled in response, and walked away and out of the coffee shop before answering her question.

She looked on, puzzled, still holding the piping hot coffee in her hand. She began to walk back to her apartment, sipping at her coffee little by little, thankful for the free pick-me-up. As she walked to her apartment, she realized that she never asked the man what his name was.

When Reyna arrived back at her apartment, she sat down at her computer, and began to draft a cover letter for a job posting she had seen the day before. She took a break soon after writing her first draft and opened up her email. There were three new messages waiting for her, and all three were from companies that she had applied to the week before, looking to set up interviews with her.

“Thank you, Lord,” she whispered, near tears.

Another Again

in preparation of lji (and possibly nano)... and because sometimes i guess i have to do these things myself =P


Mara’s first thought upon arriving at the bright yellow house was that it wasn’t a complete dump like she originally expected. The house was large -- not quite mansion-sized, but comfortably spacious. However, she was also well aware that outward appearances weren’t everything, and still steeled herself before walking inside.

She knew that she watched too much television. She expected to be greeted by chaos; maybe there would be a man walking around with no pants on, or a woman sitting in the corner jabbering to herself. Instead, a young woman in a t-shirt and a pair of jeans met Mara at the door, and ushered her into the house with an impossibly large smile on her face.

“Hi, my name is Rachael,” the young woman said, still smiling. “Welcome.”

Mara smiled slightly, still apprehensive. “Thanks. I’m Mara.”

“Well, hi there, Mara. That’s such a pretty name. What brings you here today?”

“Uh, well, I’m here to see Freddie Gibson. He tells me that today is an open house type of thing?”

Rachael looked at Mara questioningly. “Huh, well... everyday is open house for us. We really encourage our residents to keep in touch with their loved ones. Having a strong support structure is really an important thing.”

Mara didn’t respond as she tried to swallow the growing lump in her throat. Rachael continued speaking as she began to walk towards the main office of the house. Mara followed.

“You say that you’re here to see Freddie today? I’ll need to you sign in on our visitors’ log first though.” Rachael guided Mara toward the book and handed her a visitor’s badge after she signed in.

“Freddie is staying in room 302, sweetheart, which is in that direction,” Rachael said as she waved her hand off to her left. “Let me know if you need anything, okay?”

Mara nodded and smiled in response, and then began walking off into the direction of Freddie’s room. As she walked up the hallway, she glanced into the rooms of the other residents. Some were reading, others were writing. She passed a rec room, where a few were simply watching television.

She finally reached Freddie’s room, and knocked on the door, even though it was slightly ajar.

“Come in!” Freddie’s deep voice called. Mara froze for a second -- she’d almost forgotten what his voice sounded like.

She paused, and then pushed the door all the way open. Freddie was sitting on his bed, reading a book. He looked up, and his eyes widened.

“Marabee,” he whispered, forgetting that she hated that nickname. “Mara... you, you came. I didn’t think you’d actually come,” Freddie rambled. “Well, please, come in, sit down.”

Mara looked around the room. There was a bed, a nightstand, a desk, and a chair covered with clothing. “I think I’ll stand for now,” she said. She stayed in the doorway.

Freddie sat up. “How have you been? How’s... how’s Rianne? You didn’t bring her.”

“Rianne is fine. She’s at my mom’s for the day. I wasn’t sure... I didn’t want to...”

“You didn’t want to bring her into the loony bin?”

“I guess I didn’t know what to expect.”

Freddie sighed. “I told you I was staying in a nice place. You could have brought Rianne.”

“Freddie, the last time I saw you, you were on the street. I’ve never been sure of your definition of ‘nice.’” Mara stopped, eyes widened. She was shocked at her words, even though their relationship had been built on sarcasm and gentle chiding. But that was before before. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean that. Fuck, I’m supposed to be supportive. How are you? How have you been?”

He gave a dry chuckle. “It’s okay. I’ve... I’ve been to hell and back, but I’m better than I was. Good, even. Medication and therapy have been doing wonders. My doctor has me writing, too. Never thought I’d enjoy it, but I do.”

“What do you write about?” Mara asked, thankful for the subject change.

“I write about you and Rianne.” He took a deep breath and exhaled. “I write about coming home... and our future together.” Freddie looked up, hopeful. “I want to come home, Marabee. I know that you’re scared, and probably angry with me, and I don’t really blame you. But... but I’ve got my meds under control, and I’ve got a great therapist, and I don’t want to miss anymore of Rianne’s life. She’s my daughter, and I want to be her dad. I want to be her happy and healthy father.

“And you’re the love of my life, Mara. One day, I want to be your happy and healthy husband.”

Without a word, Mara began walking across the room to sit on the bed next to Freddie. She had a million questions for him. Freddie, can you handle the stress of an infant? Can I trust you alone with our baby? Can I depend on you to not hurt yourself or us?

Mara recalled Freddie’s sudden paranoia after Rianne was born. He truly thought that the world was out to get him, and the constant noise of a newborn only exacerbated his symptoms. She thought back to the quiet moments when Rianne was finally sleeping, and how they were interrupted with his rants of the cell phone signals trying to intercept his thoughts. Freddie often holed himself up in their bedroom, sitting in the dark, because he didn’t want the outsiders to see him.

And then she thought back to his eventual inability to care for himself. Mara tried to remind him that, yes, he needed to come out and help her with the baby... that she couldn’t do it on her own.

And then it came to a point where she didn’t know how to take care of him and a newborn, so she told him to leave.

Each time she heard her words reverberate in her head -- “Freddie, get out” -- the guilt ate at another small part of her. Mara tried to convince herself that she was only looking out for Rianne’s safety and well-being, but how well off were they really, one without her father and the other without her other half?

Pushing the bad memories away, Mara looked Freddie in the eye and asked, “Can I read what you wrote?”

Freddie flipped to a page in his notebook and handed it to Mara. She leaned into him as she began to read.


Once upon a time, before the nightmares and the voices and the fear, there lived two friends named Freddie and Mara, and they were going to have a baby. They were going to call her Rianne.

One night, Freddie came home to the small apartment he shared with Mara. She was eight months pregnant, and working on Rianne’s nursery. It was a small space, but Mara had spent nearly every waking hour for the past two months working on the room, making it was absolutely perfect for what would be their perfect child.

“It looks great in here, Mara,” Freddie said. “Why don’t you lay down for a bit?”

Knowing that she would protest, most likely saying that she needed five more minutes to hang up one more thing, Freddie took her hand and led her out of the room and into their bedroom. “Rest your feet,” he said as she laid down on the bed. He sat down on the bed too, and just looked at her. He didn’t say anything.

Mara caught him looking at her. “What’s on your mind?”

“We’re going to have a baby.”

She laughed. “Yup, there’s no turning back now.” And as if on cue, she began to rub her belly and whisper, “I think we’re ready for you, baby girl.”

“We’re more than ready,” Freddie said, smiling. He was hopeful and terrified all at once. A baby girl, he thought. He sighed to himself. Rianne, I might not be completely ready for you, but I will love you and guard you with all of my heart.

Mara had heard his light sigh and knew automatically what he was thinking. “Sweetie, I’m scared, too. But we have each other and we’ll be okay. All three of us,” she said, looking down at her belly again. She looked calm. Her calmness seemed to betray her words.

Freddie climbed into the bed fully, and Mara took that as her cue to cuddle into him... trying almost to bury herself inside of him. He wrapped one arm around her, and touched her belly with his other hand.

He closed his eyes, and he felt a wave of... something... wash over him. For a moment, everything was still as Freddie considered how much closer he had grown to Mara in the wake of their happy accident. And he would not have changed it for a thing.

Contentment, he suddenly thought. He wasn’t entirely sure how the two of them had arrived at that exact moment, but it was a moment the fell outside the realm of his wildest dreams and deepest desires.

And so, before the nightmares and the voices and the fear began, the world was still as Freddie and Mara fell asleep just like that, with him holding her and their unborn child in between them. Everything was right and in its right place, and it was a moment that he would have chosen to live in again and again.


Mara held back tears as she finished reading. She closed his journal and said, “I forgot about that.” She sighed and looked up at him. “Everything was so good then.”

Freddie put his arm around her, and she relaxed her body ever so slightly. “I’ve got this under control, Mara. I’m ready to come home,” he said. “But... but I’ll need your help too.”

“Yes, I love you, and I will do whatever it takes to keep you happy and healthy,” Mara whispered. “Please come home.” She choked out a sob, and threw her arms around him, holding him tightly. “We need you.”

Freddie leaned back onto the bed, bringing Mara down with him. He held her as she cried, and he shed a few tears of his own. However, it wasn’t long before she curled up into him and drifted to sleep.

He knew that contentment and the still moments that came with it were only fleeting memories, and sometimes nothing more than words scrawled into a spiral-bound journal. But even if their world was turned upside down, he thought that he would gladly live in this moment again and again as he followed Mara into a dreamless sleep.