The Liberals

I walk into the apartment and hear S and E arguing. It sounds like something personal, something I shouldn’t be hearing, until I hear the words “nepotism” and “Ivanka.”

“What are we arguing about?” I ask. S and E are at the table, their plates empty.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” S says.

One hour later, we’ve moved to the living room, still debating.

I am on the couch, opining about the nature of megalomania and how I take comfort in the fact that Trump is not an ideologue.
I’m not sure if the argument is something I once read on the Washington Post, or something I heard, or if I came up with it myself, but the more I talk the more sure I am of my point.
“Civility,” S says, “what this country needs is civility.”
We trade stories about going to the middle of America–to a farm town in Minnesota, to the prairie fields Nebraska–and how racist they were, how friendly they seemed.

E watches from the blue chair. She is a journalist and probably knows more than both S and I, but she’s more comfortable watching.

“This is what I always do when he gets into heated discussions with one of my friends,” she says, pointing at S. “I end up being moderator. I agree with you in this way, and you in this way,” she says.

“But can I say one more thing?” S asks, as excited as a child. He’s on the wooden floor, his arms wrapped around his legs, so distracted by the discussion he hasn’t made it to the chair.

We all have jobs and bed times. I have to be at the hospital for a day shift. E has to be at the office. S needs to drive back to Connecticut for a morning class.

“Just one more thing.” S says. “I’m sorry. But it’s relevant.”


A Prayer to Competence

Lately I’ve been forgetting things. ‘Lately’ is probably not the right word. I have always been forgetting things, but lately, it’s gotten worse.

There may be a reason for this lapse in competence. Maybe I am more preoccupied than usual with the impending start of the semester. Or maybe, it’s got something to do with the weather. Winter is my least favorite season because there are more  things to forget. I’ve never really been able to track why, on some weeks, I can fully function as a human, and other, I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached to my body.

I hate this expression, because people have said it to me so often. And sometimes I wish I could actually forget my head, and trade up for a better one.

“Do you have our wallet? Your keys? Your phone?” My parents ask me whenever I leave their house. I feel like a 27 year-old toddler.

Yesterday, after my mother found my wallet and glasses in her car, she texted me. “You have GOT to get a system in place.”

This advice was particularly distressing coming from her. My mother’s daily search around the house for her pocket-book often turns into a family game of hide and seek.

She told me she would drop them off in three days when she was in the area, or I could come get them sooner. But I told her I’d wait. I didn’t want to spend the money to take an Uber in order to pick up my wallet. I was already metaphorically paying for the inconvenience of my forgetfulness, and having to pay actual money seemed even worse.

Without my wallet this morning, I didn’t have my bus pass to get to work. And without my eyeglasses, I couldn’t bike there, either.

I opted to take the bus, and borrowed money from my roommate for the fare.

I didn’t remember that I would need to break the 20 until I got to the bus station. And by that time, it was too late. The line at Dunkin’ Donuts was long. The bus was one minute away. If I got on the next one, I would be late for work, and as a person prone to lateness, it was a point of pride that I had yet to clock in late to my new job, even by a minute.

I rode the bus and checked my email, trying to not think about what I would do once I got to my stop and had to pay my fare before exiting. The thought of having to ask a bus full of strangers to break a 20 was too frightening.

“Who gets on a bus with a 20?” the bus driver huffed.  “That doesn’t make sense,” he said. It was 6:12am, but he looked as if he had already worked a full-day and this was the last straw.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” he repeated.

“I don’t have anything else.” I played dumb. Maybe I’d never taken a bus before.

“C’mon,” He groaned, his hands gripping the steering wheel. He shook his head, aggrieved by the fact that part of his job involved having to interact with people as stupid as me.

“What is wrong with you?” he asked. “Buses don’t give change.”

“Just get off,” he said finally. Out the door and across the sidewalk, I could still hear his mumbling.

Further down the street, my ears started to feel cold and I remembered I was missing something. I didn’t have my ear muffs. I panicked, certain I had left them on my bus seat. But first, I checked inside my bag.

There they were. White, puffy, warm, and waiting for me at the bottom of my bag. Right where they should have been.


“Open,” the optical technician says, “open wider.”

  I press my face against the forehead rest, trying to lift the skin above my eyes and mold my face into a state of extreme shock. In the last year or so, I’ve noticed that after I scrunch and relax my forehead, the wrinkles stay.

“Wider,” the technician says. “Even wider.”

I cannot open my lids any further. When I close them, red dots are spinning in circles.

The tech calls for back up. A woman comes in, snaps on rubber gloves, and pries my upper and lower lids open while the other takes the images. By the way they talk over the machine, I sense this is not a standard procedure.

My need for special accommodation feels like a personal deficiency, or, I reason, some kind of systemic prejudice against people with epicanthic lids. My grandma, who died with lipstick on, once told my sister and I that her gynecologist said she looked Asian. This made us wonder if she had an Asian-looking vagina.

“Beautiful,” the woman with the gloves says. “Just beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I say. I like being called beautiful, even if it’s in reference to my corneal topography.

“Don’t turn the lights on,” the first tech warns the other, “she has very large pupils.”

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The tipping scale of my confidence vacillates.

“Fantastic work,” the tech says to me, after I blink when instructed. “Great job.”

I find it amusing when people provide encouragement for small achievements. It makes me think of my dog, who gets a treat every time he poops.

When we finish, I meet with the clinical coordinator who tells me my corneas are very thick and that I’m a perfect candidate for laser eye surgery. She says I can’t wear makeup for three weeks after the surgery. Without eye makeup, people often tell me I look tired. Once I was asked if I’d been punched in both eyes.

“But you don’t need makeup,” she says, before I can respond. “you’re so pretty.”

Thick corneas. Perfect candidate. Don’t need makeup.

The scales shift, just a little bit higher.



My friend Mira calls her three year-old son Theo a threenager. He kicks and he kisses.

In a worn notepad that sits atop her toilet, she keeps a record of his moments of poetic brilliance.

In the latest entry, he asks, “Mommy, do horses think toy horses are real horses?”

In Crisis

It’s training day at the hospital. We’ve each been paired with a partner to reenact crisis behaviors, by order of severity. Grabbing. Hair-pulling. Choking. Biting.

In the first scenario, I am a feeble old woman. I stoop my back and pretend to bite softly into my partner’s arm.

“Please stop biting me,” my partner says.

“Okay,” I say softly, my dentures falling to the ground.


In the second scenario, I am a small but angry adolescent. I bite down hard on her arm and growl.

My partner holds me by the head and disentangles her arm from my mouth.


In the third scenario, I am patient of indeterminate age with great jaw strength.

I pretend to bite down on her arm even harder, and she pushes her hand towards my mouth, so my teeth widen and lose their grip.


“It’s called ‘feeding the bite’,” the instructor says. “So you don’t lose flesh,”

I make a mental note to remember the words. They seem to contain a fundamental truth; we have to give in in order to get through the pain. I try it out. “Sometimes, you just need to feed the bite.”

“Do you think it’ll catch on?” I ask my partner.

“Unlikely,” she says.




At the pie shop down the street, the guy at the counter always wears a knit hat with a pom pom, regardless of the season. His script does not vary much; he asks me how my work is going, what I’ve been up to, if I have any weekend plans. He stretches his words out in a way that makes him always seem high.

Today, I came in later than usual. Half a pecan pie, a quarter loaf of bread, and a few muffins were all that was left.

“Almost everything’s gone,” he says, watching me look sadly at the near empty display case. “But we do have tons and tons of coffee.”

“How’s the apple-walnut cake?”

“I wouldn’t know, I’m allergic to nuts,” He says. “And sesame seeds, too.” He goes on. “I’m arab, and I can’t even eat sesame seeds,”

I order the apple-walnut cake, feeling bad he had to come into contact with the nuts at the end of his metal tongs.

“It’s okay,” he says, “it’s totally fine.” “If I was that allergic, I’d have been dead within a week of working here.”

Group Mentality

We stand in a row, our left hands resting on the wooden bar. One girl is wearing a ballet leotard and shoes, but the rest of us–mostly women, mostly in their 20s and 30s–look awkward and clumsy in our basketball shorts and yoga pants. I am at the end, my back to the rest of the class, and there’s only one woman to the right of me to use as a point of reference. She is much taller human than me; her hips are at my chest.

I haven’t been on a sports team since Sophomore year of high school, when I was running around with the plaid skirt hacking at a ball with a wooden stick. I rarely go to concerts. I like the Red Sox, but not having to sit next to the fans. Large groups of people make me nervous, and I’m not a good candidate for a cult. Exercise classes are the only sort of group mentality I can get behind.

Lift one leg up, another one down, the teacher says. She is pacing the room, her voice peppy. She wears exercise clothes but a full face of makeup. I have not yet fallen in love with her yet, but I will by the end of class. My friend Bethany and I have discussed this before–there’s a certain aura to exercise instructors, a seductive power in their ability to make an entire room of people sweat.

I am particularly bad at following kinetic instructions, so it is belittling in a good way to always be one of the worst students in the room.

Up, down. Side, side. Right. Left. That’s it.

I pivot my hips left and then right, right and then left, lost in my movements. I look towards the girl next to me to see if I’m doing it right.

“I don’t even know,” she laughs, looking back at the mirror to try to get a glimpse of the teacher in the reflection.

I lift my hands off the bar and shrug. “Me neither.”