Shout Out Sunday

Happiest of Sundays to you, dear reader! It looks like I wrote this post for last week and then completely forgot about it, which is why I could never make any money blogging! Summer is passing by all too quickly (we’ve had record-breaking high temps this weekend). I haven’t even been to the beach yet!

Please enjoy the usual ramblings!

Screen Shot 2019-07-20 at 9.04.09 PM.png
image via blush.daisy
  • You had better believe I bought these earrings. I’m also obsessed with Blush Daisy, who should be restocking soon. I got these and these last week.
  • My “thing” has always been fun glasses/sunglasses, but every since I became a DGW (daily glasses wearer) at age 22, my sunglasses flair has significantly decreased. I need prescription sunnies (world’s tiniest violin), and those tend to be more expensive than wacky Target finds. Thankfully, Zenni Optical has my back! Just bought these and these in a sunglass tint for when I’m feeling alternately vintage and glam. I also have these sunglasses because apparently I was too young to really *get* Lolita when I read it?!
  • As a somewhat…hirsute lady, I’ve been meaning to try this razor! My thoughts & prayers are with my fellow pale-skinned, dark-haired gals.
  • Just found out about this website, so maybe I’ll give it a whirl! Making money writing seems like an impossible dream, but who knows?
  • Living for my Oxalis rollerball these days.
  • At CVS the other day, I asked the pharmacist what I could take that’s stronger than melatonin to help me sleep…she literally suggested dosing myself with Benadryl. I mean, I’m doing it (I’m a desperate insomniac), but I also got these Olly supplements.
  • Can’t wait to read this book. Emily Nussbaum’s NYTimes reviews are my favorite.
  • I’m really enjoying Stranger Things season 3, but this article really nails something I’ve noticed while watching. It’s not really all that eighties anymore, is it?
  • Here’s a handy reference for streaming junkies like me. Mostly just excited about Veronica Mars.
  • Should I get the Fleabag jumpsuit, the Stranger Things romper, or both?

Catch ya later!

Advertisements

Shout Out Sunday

Good morning, friends! I hope you all only had to work 3 days last week. Even though the 4th of July is a really complicated holiday from a social justice perspective, I had the privilege of a great day by the pool and somehow managed to only get a sunburn on my shins. I can sense a major case of the Sunday Scaries coming on…how do I go back to work after 4 days off? What is a desk? All I want to do is lay around reading and eating Mexican food…is that such a big ask?

Enjoy this week’s round-up!

IMG_4187.JPG
my fourth of july look was leopard & crystals because i am a sentient glass of chardonnay
  1. I took the MTEL on Friday (the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure) and even though I have no clue whether I passed, the test did remind me that I’m obsessed with Toni Morrison. One of the passages I had to write about was from Song of Solomon, which I actually haven’t read, so I’m putting it on the reading list immediately! Not to brag, but I do own a signed copy of Beloved *flips hair*
  2. I don’t bake but maybe I should start?
  3. Started reading incredible Twitter person, Kristen Arnett‘s Mostly Dead Things and it is a stunning masterpiece.
  4. The NYTimes tried to answer the age-old debate between iced coffee and cold brew, but they forgot one very important detail—cold brew is just tastier.
  5. Halle Bailey has been cast as The Little Mermaid in Disney’s upcoming live-action flick, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier that they didn’t just shove some white girl in a red wig for verisimilitude to a cartoon based on a Danish horror story. If you haven’t heard Chloe X Halle, give them a listen!
  6. Stranger Things season 3 is out!
  7. Rob Sheffield, one of my favorite writers and (fun fact) the brother of my high school chemistry teacher, wrote a great review of the new Beatles movie, Yesterday. I’m still going to see it, but I’m going into it with a critical eye.
  8. LOFT sale is an extra 60% off until Tuesday. I went yesterday and got three pieces for $20—it felt like stealing. I may or may not have just gotten a ton more stuff from the website…I love LOFT for my work wardrobe!
  9. I went up to Salem, MA last weekend and fell in love with all of the amazing shops up there. Hauswitch was one of my faves…give me all the crystals, please! I also loved Modern Millie—I wish I could wear a vintage dress every day!
  10. Tried the Yellow Door Taqueria in Lower Mills (Milton-Dorchester line) and it was bomb. My friend even made me taste duck! If you’re in the Boston area check ’em out!

Tunes of the Week:

The girl 2 cubicles over plays the radio at work, so as a result, I have had “GIRL” by Maren Morris stuck in my head for ~a month.

In honor of the 4th, PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM.

Bonus content: Wanna see my chart? It’s trouble.

IMG_4184

Words Wednesday

I promised I would do a weekly post and here I am doing a weekly post, goddamnit! I wrote this in the fog of a panic attack back in December, so TW mental illness and suicidal ideation. I feel like a different person today. I hardly recognize this person. That’s the thing about mental illness—it disfigures your self-conception. I hope that anyone reading this who suffers from mental illness feels a little less alone today.

The Time I Had a Full Panic Attack Because I Couldn’t Finish the New York Times Crossword

As I write this, dear reader, that “time” is today. It is a Sunday in December 2018. This morning, around 9:00 am, I did what I routinely do on a Sunday morning. I awoke, checked Twitter from bed, got up, made myself a cold brew with oat milk, and sat down to do the New York Times crossword under a cozy blanket on my living room couch. Our living room couch is a faux-leather sectional that I acquired just prior to my wedding. It’s covered in tiny tears from my cat’s claws and worn spots where my husband often falls asleep instead of going to his studio to work. When I ordered the couch from Bob’s Discount Furniture, I chose the model with the L-shape on the right side, so that it would be on my side, and I could treat it like a Victorian fainting couch. Every day I get to sit with my legs up, stretched out in extreme comfort while my husband sits upright, which I justify by reminding myself that white, heterosexual men have enough in this world.

On this particular Sunday, I took my medication on time instead of forgetting about it until the late afternoon, as I am wont to do. I threw in a probiotic for good measure. Things were looking up. That is, until I opened my MacBook and the Google Chrome browser to the New York Times crossword section, which is my homepage. I am, you see, what absolutely no one calls a cruciverbalist. Crossword puzzles are my lodestar in a chaotic and dark world. When I worked in an office during my graduate school internship, I often spent my entire shift trying to solve every Monday and Tuesday puzzle in the entire archive, including the one from the day I was born (a Monday, at 3:11 pm, with the sun in Leo and the moon in Sagittarius). I wowed my young coworkers with my talent, for you see, the children of today do not read, and thus do not possess the vast store of utterly useless knowledge of a person who grew up before computers were an affordable household necessity. At the time of this writing, I have completed 411 puzzles.

But on this day, I was challenged. Will Shortz, longtime editor of the crossword, and Luke Vaughn, its creator, mocked me from my screen. Such clues as “2003 Economics Nobelist Robert” and “Traveling from coast to coast, maybe” seemed opaque, unsolvable. As I look at the long list of clues now, they seem fairly obvious, and some were. “Aladdin villain?” Jafar. Any millennial would know that. “Barbara and Jenna, to Jeb?” Anyone alive during the Bush administration remembers the First Daughters, the nieces of the then-governor of Florida, who may or may not be responsible for Al Gore, winner of the popular vote, not moving himself and Tipper into the White House in January 2001. Fun fact about Jeb Bush—he was the 43rd governor of Florida while his brother was the 43rd President of the United States. His wife’s name is Columba. Remember what I said about useless knowledge?

The answer to “Zoroastrianism’s sacred text” was a vital answer. It would unlock the bottom middle section, but how was I to know this? Norwood Public Schools taught ancient history for one year, sixth grade, and I don’t recall the Zoroastrians coming up. “Waterloo’s home?” A fool would know that Waterloo is in Belgium. Who hadn’t studied Napoleon’s infamous battle? But only four letters was I given. About a third of the way into the puzzle, I began to feel a shortness of breath. My chest began to heave. I stared blankly at the screen, a sea of white squares, waiting to be filled. I started questioning my very existence. The Sunday puzzle is typically the most difficult of the week, though I find that the Times pulls some nasty tricks on Thursdays, and occasionally Saturdays. I cursed myself. How could I not remember that Amy Tan wrote The Joy Luck Club? Sure, I hadn’t read The Joy Luck Club, but I recall it being around during my childhood. I may have even had a copy at one point, purchased at one of my local library’s many semi-annual book sales. 

Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt useless, incompetent. Why had I gone to graduate school? What good was a Master’s Degree if I couldn’t solve a crossword puzzle? I’d grown up playing the 1981 version Genus Edition of Trivial Pursuit, created years before the Berlin Wall fell. I did the Boston Globe crossword, in pen, on the T with my father. All of those years of driving truly trivial knowledge into my formative brain were for naught. I decided to cut my losses and look up about five of the 242 answers so that I could fill in the puzzle. Its completion status would soothe me. I screwed up the last clue, misspelling Bissau, the “West African capital” in question, but it didn’t matter. I corrected myself, closed out of the puzzle, and tried to soothe my worry that I was experiencing early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

I decided to open the Saturday puzzle, which I’d skipped the day before. Perhaps a slightly easier puzzle would ease my suffering. It now stands incomplete with only 13 clues solved. With tears in my eyes, the panic rising, I turned to the Friday. I made even less progress. The only answer I knew with absolute certainty was that Noth was the Chris from The Good Wife. Further devastated, I opened the Thursday, which I hadn’t completed. The clues all looked like gibberish. I closed the browser entirely and set the computer aside, afraid that in my rage I might snap it in two. I opened my phone, fired off a few angry tweets about the Sunday puzzle, as my friend Katie, sole champion of my Twitter account, was a crossword enthusiast herself, and might understand my distress. Moments later, I decided to write this very essay, in the hopes it might be cathartic. 

But this essay is not about crosswords. It is about triggers. It is about the internalization of inadequacy, fear, and self-loathing. It is a fable about living with bipolar disorder—the mood swings loom. At the first sign of an obstacle, I break down. There was a synonym for “obstacle” that I wanted to use in the previous sentence, but in my mental exhaustion, I can’t find it in the recesses of my mind. I am certain that my tenuous emotional state is responsible for my utter inability to solve this week’s earlier puzzles. My whole life, I have been a ticking time bomb of irrational reactions to quotidian life. When I was in middle school, I misplaced my Go-Gos CD (Beauty and the Beat, obvs), and, failing to uncover it in my bedroom, spent an hour on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Not because I needed to listen to the Go-Gos (though “Lust to Love” was my absolute jam), but because I was a failure. I had failed to keep my room organized. I was worthless. I couldn’t keep track of my own belongings. If I couldn’t locate something as mundane as a CD, how could I graduate high school? How could I ever find love, or employment? 

Fifteen years later, as recently as last June, I’d spend nearly an hour on the phone with a dear friend, in hysterics, because I felt that a phone interview had gone poorly. If I couldn’t get hired at Starbucks, how could I ever hope to earn a stable living? How could I ever have a child if I couldn’t lift myself above the poverty line? How could I ever be independent? I threatened to kill myself between sobs and gulps of air. I wanted out of this world because I was incapable of succeeding. It almost torpedoed the friendship. My husband later found me on the bathroom floor, retching into the toilet, and had to physically lift me up. My legs trembled as I slowly walked to the living room, red-faced and tear-stained. The worst part of this whole story is that I got hired (though in a slightly lower position), less than a week later. 

A few weeks ago, I called the suicide hotline for the first time. It had been after a particularly tough shift at work, at a job I hated with every fiber of my being, despite loving all of my coworkers. I had been up since 3:30 am to make it to work by 4:30. At the very end of my shift, an incredibly blunt and assertive coworker pulled me aside to criticize something I had done. I don’t even remember what she said. The day had been relentlessly busy. I had been having a low-grade panic attack for hours. Upon hearing her words, I burst into tears. I don’t even remember leaving, or the first 10 minutes of my commute home. I sobbed and sobbed, and the suicidal ideation crept back into my mind. I contemplated admitting myself into the emergency room, feeling I needed a babysitter to ensure that I wouldn’t harm myself. I frantically called my husband at work and asked for his advice. He told me to drive to his parents’ house, but I insisted that I didn’t want them to see me in such a state. Knowing that, regardless, I’d need to drive at least 20 minutes to get to the ER, I looked up the number for the LifeLine, while driving, and called. 

I was patched to the Boston Samaritans, which I mistook for the Good Samaritan hospital not far from my house. In between sobs, I asked her what would happen if I admitted myself. Would they keep me overnight? Would they confiscate my phone? I had to open my store the next morning. I couldn’t let my team down. Their success was more important to me than my own life. The sweet girl with the soothing voice on the other end of the phone didn’t have an answer for me, but she listened and offered her support. She implored me to pull over, thinking it unsafe for me to be driving in such a state. I pulled into the Stop N Shop parking lot in Stoughton and talked to her until I regained my normal breathing pace and my tears had subsided into more gentle sniffling and sobs. I promised her that my house was minutes down the road, and that I wouldn’t do anything to harm myself on the way or once I arrived. She arranged a check-up phone call for later that night, which was a brilliant tactic. The call was an obligation, a plan, something I needed to be around for. I made it home, sat on my couch, and watched Schitt’s Creek, a perfect television show, until my husband came home. I think I ate Cheez-Its. 

I am pleased to say that, despite my panic attack this morning, I have not considered killing myself even once. Today. Even though I’m crying writing about this, it all feels like progress. L’appel du vide still lives and breathes in the back of my mind, but it floats through my mind in ephemeral wisps, instead of planting, its roots spreading through me, poisoning my thoughts. Perhaps the call of death has subsided because I found a new (low-paying, but stable) job in an office environment. Something I can be proud of. I quit my service job as soon as I got the offer from the new one, and the week off allowed me to finish my last paper of graduate school, a twenty-page opus on Jewish comedy and the series Difficult People, the two most precious things in my world. In a week, I went from fantasizing about driving my car off of a highway overpass to earning a Master’s Degree and splurging on a new business-casual wardrobe from Madewell, J. Crew, and Everlane. My best friend came home for the holidays and we saw The Favourite before drinking way too much rosé, talking about sex toys, and crying about love. For the first time in my life, despite the fact that my car payment is now ten days overdue, I feel like an adult. Or something approximating one. But with my condition, that could change at any moment, and it terrifies me. 

I still plan on doing tomorrow’s puzzle. The Monday is always the easiest (my best time is five minutes and seven seconds). When the upbeat piano riff plays, a sense of accomplishment will wash over me, because I will have achieved something small, but meaningful. And honestly, until the medication I’m taking truly takes effect, if indeed it does, small victories like washing and folding my laundry on the same day, or finishing a particularly challenging crossword, will have to be enough to sustain me.

P.S. The word for “obstacle” that I had wanted to use was “adversity.” The fog does clear eventually.

Shout Out Sunday

[Sorry this is late!]

Happy Sunday! Hopefully you have a short week coming up (mine’s only 3 days!) Since I’m already a day late I figure I’ll get right to it with no preamble!!

big_little_lies_s02_still.jpg
image source
  1. Nicole Cliffe wrote a celeb profile and it was of…ALANIS MORISSETTE. The exact crux of all of my interests. It’s a must read–check it out in SELF.
  2. ADHD diagnoses are a gendered issue. I finally got medication for it (at almost 28-years-old) and I can already feel my life changing. This old episode of Stuff Mom Never Told You does a great job of talking about this massive problem.
  3. This profile of my favorite internet person slaps.
  4. I purchased the shoes.
  5. Nutrition science is a sham!
  6. Why is halloumi not a thing in the US? In England I ate it about 1,000 times in three weeks. A truly perfect food.
  7. I am HYPE for the 4th of July, but mostly because of the various “salads” (potato, macaroni, etc). This macaroni salad recipe looks bomb.
  8. This skirt rules. I can’t decide which color to get!
  9. I bought a weighted blanket and I’m so excited to try it. Of course I bought the pink.
  10. Punch Up the Jam did “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn and now I CAN’T STOP LISTENING TO IT!
  11. Finally started watching Big Little Lies season 2 and HOLY CRAP MERYL STREEP. The performance of a lifetime.

Until next week!

-chels

Shout Out Sunday

Hello! This week was absolutely insane. I spent the first half sick and the second half doing Too Many Activities™. Friday was our annual work outing, at which I spent 2+ hours getting torrentially downpoured on in a sailboat (misery) and drank all the wine cocktails (happiness). Then, I drove out to Western Mass to see one of my dearest friends and go to a show (detailed below), and didn’t get home until 2 am. Needless to say, I am an empty shell of a human who requires sleep and adequate nutrition. So, without further ado, my weekly roundup:

  1. I saw Jenny Lewis (again) last night in Northampton, and it was a religious experience. She’s still on tour, so get tickets immediately! I might go see her again in Boston or Providence, it was that amazing.
  2. I’ve been watching Catastrophe again, because I’m never not watching Catastrophe in a loop. Truly the greatest series ever created.
  3. One of my biggest regrets is not registering for a high-powered blender or Vitamix for our wedding. Just trying to make my own oat milk! Also, if you’re not on the oat milk train, I feel bad for you, son.
  4. I want to try this restaurant in Newton. There aren’t enough vegan restaurants where I live!
  5. Must have this faux agave plant for my house (I’m a plant killer).
  6. This playlist, FIG for CHELS—True/Tested, i.e. the playlist of car songs my husband has been making for me over the past several months, slaps so hard it should be illegal.
  7. Michael and I are (slowly) watching Westworld. We certainly don’t have the same momentum watching it as we did Game of Thrones (the nonlinear storyline doesn’t propel it forward in quite the same way), but we’re really enjoying it so far. Thandie Newton is a sensation.
  8. Speaking of HBO, they made a series of My Brilliant Friend, one of my favorite novels of all time??? Watching immediately.
  9. Put these noodles in my body right now.
  10. This piece is extremely heavy (TW: sexual assault), but I think it’s an extremely important read. Assault is a political issue. We cannot have hideous men as leaders.

I’m sorry to bring the tears with that last one, but it so profoundly moved me that I had to share it. Silence is complicity.

Now, please enjoy this crappy iPhone picture of the one true god.

IMG_4163.JPG
jenny lewis \ calvin theatre \ northampton, ma \ 6.22.19

Until next week!

Shout Out Sunday

Good morning! I’m actually putting this out on time this week, considering last week’s came out on Wednesday. It’s Father’s Day, and I know that can be really rough for some people. My dad and I are pretty close, but my heart goes out to all the people who might be struggling today. In honor of this holiday, may I wish a happy Father’s Day to Jeff Goldblum only:

Jeff-Goldblum.png
just a little jeff to bless your timeline (image source)

Well, let’s get right to it, shall we?

  1. Lyz Lenz’s piece on “Sex After Jesus” is so moving.
  2. I am obsessed with the Public Goods aesthetic! How is it possible that I only heard of this brand this week? It’s a lot like Brandless, which I’ve talked about on here before, but it seems to be specifically membership-based, like Grove. The older I get, the more I love minimalism.
  3. I’m so into this new trend of alcohol-free bars! I would totally buy an artisinal mocktail. The fun of drinking is just being out with your friends, isn’t it?
  4. I really want to watch the Black Mirror episode with Miley Cyrus, but the mere CONCEPT of Black Mirror scares the shit out of me. I don’t need that “what if cellphones but too much” energy in my life.
  5. How are these baskets only $6? Please give me all of them.
  6. I…can’t stop watching Laura Prepon’s Instagram videos. She has a YouTube channel too, if that’s more your speed.
  7. I caved and signed up for another year of Amazon Prime for the cheap Kindle books and to watch Fleabag. I’m a monster. And I’m aware that I will inevitably buy the jumpsuit.
  8. A meme was going around Twitter last week to share a photo of yourself as a child that has the same energy of you as an adult. My post is…on brand.
  9. Modcloth’s dresses are on sale but you’ve gotta act fast since sizes are going!
  10. I started a “Words Wednesday” series where I’m going to post a piece of creative writing weekly. Check out last week’s post!

Songs of the Week:

Lazy Line Painter Jane” by Belle & Sebastian. This has been one of my favorite songs for years and years, but I saw it on someone else’s Spotify playlist today and all of the feelings came rushing right back to me. A perfect jam.

Does He Love You?” by Rilo Kiley. This week’s creative writing piece will be a short story based on this song (if I can finish it on time!) I’ve been planning to get a tattoo that says “I am flawed if I’m not free” for ten+ years…should I finally just do it?

Back next week with more! TTFN!

Words Wednesday

Because y’all asked for another weekly feature, right? Every Wednesday, I’m going to share a piece of creative writing—raw and unedited, unless otherwise specified.

This week’s piece is “Carey,” a short story (vignette? sketch?) I wrote a little over a year ago while I was in grad school. It’s just the bones of an idea, but the point of sharing is to keep myself accountable and keep myself writing, even if what I share is full-on trash. Story time!

Carey

The cuckoo clock that Carey had so lovingly restored during a longer stint of sobriety ticked and tocked with distracting purpose. Mae had vivid fantasies of ripping it from the wall and dismantling it in a field, like the scene in Office Space, but she knew that Carey needed the reminder of his potential. Every tick was a second further from the most recent nightmare.

He was sober now, a month, and Mae regretted how easily irritated she became in his constant presence. Not that she preferred his expensive, cocaine-fueled dalliances with other women, but at least then she’d had some alone time to write. The bastard was effusive and charming after a few drinks, but sober Carey tended to be sullen and serious. Fucking became lovemaking, toying around with his guitars became the grave act of composition instead of a diversion. He was, at that moment, in the parlor with his nylon-string acoustic, composing something that sounded identical to Van Halen’s “Spanish Fly,” but Mae didn’t dare tell him. He abhorred what he called “cock rock,” preferring the soulfulness of obscure, esoteric, experimental bands. Mae liked Van Halen—in fact, her guilty pleasure was listening to Top 40 on the radio whenever she wasn’t chauffeuring Carey around, being subjected to his postmodernist jazz, or whatever.

“Do you want me to make dinner?” she asked, hoping the suggestion would persuade him to eat something and put some weight on his increasingly gaunt frame.

“Uh, yeah. Whatever’s fine,” he mumbled back, uninterested. “I’m not super hungry.”

“Just pick a…a food genre,” she replied, frustrated. “An ingredient. Something.”

“How about…stir-fry?” he offered, not looking up to meet her gaze.

“Sure,” Mae sighed, relieved he’d answered at all. “Stir-fry. I’ll get right on that.” She washed the skillet she’d left dirty by the kitchen sink before drying it with a dishcloth one of Carey’s relatives had given them after their wedding.

The warm water streaming from the faucet felt luxurious on her worn hands. She caught her reflection in the kitchen window, and suppressed a small smile. She looked quite beautiful—she always looked most beautiful when she was tired. Exhaustion softened her severe features and smoothed the lines around her eyes. Her nude lipstick looked faint, as though it had been kissed off, and thick black-rimmed glasses magnified her large, storm-grey eyes. Her hair, which typically hung with the weight of a funeral shroud, was swept back by a kerchief to cascade down her back. In these rare moments she felt like a match for Carey.

Carey had the sort of magnetic charm that made him irresistible in the face of his faults. Even as he lied, cheated, absconded with her money, the chipped front tooth of his crooked smile was apology enough. He was a scrawny six feet, and every inch of him was dear to her. She’d been cautioned by friends and family not to marry him, especially so young, but she had a sick fascination with his deviant nature; she was unshakably attracted to the dirty, disheveled, dishwater hair that framed his face, the patches of unkempt stubble that adorned his strong jaw. He spoke softly, in a voice almost sweetly feminine, that had begun to grow gravelly from years of smoking. His bony appendages were covered in tattoos, but her favorite would always be the cluster of mayflowers above his heart, a tribute to her he’d had inked when they were barely more than children. He’d always called her “Mayflower,” and that pet name, unlike their bodies, had not yet begun to grow old.

Carey was 33 now, but looked younger. He had the unaffected manner of someone who’d never committed to anything long enough to gain expertise. Well, anything but her. The only trustworthy thing he’d ever said was that he loved her, and she believed him without a single lingering doubt. The dysfunction between them was intoxicating—a therapist might have urged that they separate, but their bond was a foregone conclusion. They both got high on the misery they inflicted upon each other. He wrote songs about it. She wrote stories. He went off the wagon, cleaned up his act, and did something excessively grand, like build her an armoire. She’d resolve to kick him out, or kill him, but one look into his smoldering dark eyes, and she’d fall into his arms, then he, to his knees.

They’d been living off a modest trust that Carey’s deceased parents had left him, though its funds were dwindling after years of relative indolence. Mae, for her part, had gone to school and always kept a job; Carey had barely scraped through with an undergraduate degree in Psychology, which he’d promptly abandoned as readily as he resolved to skip graduation. Carey was smart—smart enough to get by on looks, charm, and the nine lives he’d apparently been granted by good works in a past life. He had Mae, sometimes a servant, sometimes a concubine, always his wife—conservative in her daily activities, Mae came completely unhinged in the bedroom, performing whatever fit his whim. Even sober sex with him was incredible, despite the lack of levity. In the old days, when they’d get whiskey drunk and fuck, they could be heard laughing down the hall as they tumbled across the bed and onto the floor. It was no surprise that Carey had gotten her pregnant twice—they were as responsible as they were gainfully employed.

When the ingredients for dinner were chopped and rinsed, Mae wiped the counter down with the dishcloth, staining it with the juice of the red bell pepper. She considered, over the cast-iron pan of stir-fry, if she should turn off the flame and seduce him now. He was in an insufferable mood—perhaps that might cheer him up. But it could backfire—it could make him so dreadfully intense. He might speechify his professions of love for hours, and Mae had an early morning. He had always been grandiose, but his increasing familiarity with each and every of the twelve steps lent his words a messianic tenor. She pictured herself, 21-year-old bride in a cheap lace sundress, standing on the American side of Niagara Falls, the most romantic spot their young minds could conjure, and briefly imagined what she might have made of her life if she’d run screaming the first time he relapsed.

The first year of their marriage had been relatively placid—bolstered by their defiance, they had endeavored to enact an idyllic scene of young love and had succeeded. Even her parents eventually began to soften to Carey, though they’d never abandon their dislike of him entirely. They’d never understood how she could tolerate his capriciousness; they, of course, suspected his addictions. Mae was not naive, but Carey was her pet, and when she was young, she thought that proper love and nurturing could relieve his suffering and make him whole. It wasn’t long into their marriage before he relapsed after two years of relative sobriety—devastating then, she remembered it as almost quaint in comparison to what would come later. He admitted to having slept with a college classmate in a blackout and Mae had tried to be upset by it. Not long after their first reconciliation, they found the third-floor apartment where they still lived. The landlord, Rex, was a former junkie who had a soft spot for Carey’s troubles; he never bothered them when the rent was late, as long as they paid eventually. They’d been in the creaky old apartment for ten years that April.

She turned the knob on the gas range off and tossed the dishcloth from her hands as she devised a game for them to play. She walked into the parlor, lifted his chin with her right index finger, and used their wedded telepathy to impel him to the bedroom. He placed his guitar gently onto the sofa and followed her eagerly. Once they’d reached the bed, he flung her down with uncommon force and began biting into her flesh like a starved animal. She loved this Carey, possessed by his animal instincts. This was her favorite iteration of him, and her earlier feelings of irritation vanished as bruises appeared on her skin. Their years together had made their lovemaking efficient—Carey took Mae from behind and angled her just so, allowing her to finish before him, as he always did.

She nestled herself in Carey’s arms, inhaling his earthy scent, tracing her fingers along the patterns left by the beads of sweat on his chest. She began to ask what he was thinking, but stopped herself; it was better she didn’t know. In ignorance, she could imagine that he lay there daydreaming of her—the deep curve of her waist, the high arch in her foot, the taste of her. His soft gaze was aimed at the ceiling, which was yellowed here and there from decades of water damage. His breathing was deep and even. She ran her thumb over his bottom lip, slightly protruding, swollen from its time between her teeth. He turned to face her, smiled, and whispered “Mayflower” as he grazed her brow with a kiss. Carey’s wedding band caught the light of the street lamps outside and glowed yellow as his hand rested on her cheek.The weight of it soothed her—his calloused fingertips felt so soft on her face; they’d been so rough only moments before. Mae kissed the palm of his hand; a barely perceptible smile flickered across his lips as his eyes closed to rest. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep, and she soon followed. The flames didn’t wake either of them until they began lapping at the bedroom door.