nebraska (a short story)

The ladder existed in the middle of a field swarming with chiggers and ticks. It was a day in June I would have titled: denim cut-offs sky with acid washed pocket clouds, had I thought long enough.

Leigh did not like heights; she could barely stand on her tip-toes without feeling excerpts of vertigo.

This ladder was buried eight feet deep into the ground. Held by cement and sturdy earth. She told me she was doing this to get closer to the sun because—and here is where I must quote her, “because when we whisper our truths to the sun, they are burned into us like ritualistic brandings.”

photo by Raluca Albu


We had only known each other for twelve days and she announced her queer after an evening of shared mead. I can still feel the fermented honey drinking my tongue.

Where she came from, she told me, there is no room for declarations such as this. You are born into the gender you are assigned. You are to marry the opposite of what you are.

I told her that where I come from, they extended the land perimeters to make room for the additional boxes declaring the array of humans that exist.

Of course, I come from New York City.

I watched her ankles tremble. Even her blond hair shook like corn stalks in the wind. I stood at the bottom, ready to catch her, but I knew she wouldn’t fall.

And when she finally got to the top, she kept on climbing.

fear of / no longer fearing

Sometimes we need to say yes in order to remember that we can. That fear is just a stamp we can remove because perhaps the postage has expired. Perhaps fear is just a word now, with all the meaning thinned out and ghostly.

How long have you been haunted by STOP signs and hiding places.

On a sunday in june, you put on your rain boots to walk in the tall grass, which hides tiny mites which crawl beneath skin. Yesterday, this fear would have kept you inside.

On this sunday in june, you walk with a group of artists into an open field where somebody one day built a ladder going to nowhere, rooted into the ground with concrete and soil. And on this sunday, you slowly ascend with eyes gazing forward. With each climb, you think of yoko ono. Her curled staircase twisted and trembled. But even then, on that thursday in may, you traveled. Up and past fear.

Also, on this sunday in june, you swing from a carved unicorn hanging from a barn, floating without ground. High up, you swing. Thin, pointed horn made of wood between your legs, which you stroke and remember.

On this sunday, you say yes and forget about what frightens you. You take off all your clothes and rub your scars into nebraska. You kiss the wind with your toes. You remember how to be alive. Like this.

a different kind of high

My breath is held captive by my ribcage, caught up inside the complication of my neck and even my lungs are gasping for some sort of rescue. Do not ask me to clap or lean forward. There is music playing but for once I practice stillness. Down below are drunk bodies, heavy bellies, sports fans fondling their partners just to get noticed on a giant projection screen. I am clutching my limbs, holding on to the one beside me understands my fear of heights well enough without having to ask why I am wincing.

I feel like the haunt above clouds which nap above rooftops. I feel high enough to converse with religion, if I were inclined to believe in such a thing. I feel like I can tell you what brand of weather will arrive next: this is how high up I am.

Far down below are men wearing tall bones and sweatbands on wrists and foreheads. They are agile and seductively graceful as they press callused fingertips against leather/rubber/synthetic wrapped sphere. This is called a dribble.

As I am practicing how not to be frightened from my fear of these heights, I become mesmerized by how many times they take a break.

Time Out: Bring out the “dancers” or women wearing very little spandex and bright red smiles and carmelized hair.

Time Out: Commercial break. Beer run. Refill of overpriced nachos or greatest hits compilation of meat pressed into a bun.

She asks me if I know the rules and I tell her yes, even though I don’t. But I also don’t fully understand how to engage in this odd twenty-four (continuous) game of life, yet I seem to be an active player.

What keeps me distracted from the extreme height of our seats is the woman behind me wearing netted stockings and a piercingly inquisitive voice. She is asking her boyfriend/brother/friend/cousin questions about the point system and why they rotate players. I overhear her say to him, “I don’t know what you just said, but I laughed.”

At the end of the evening I want to thank her for inadvertently distracting me from my fear. I want to thank the handsome human beside me acting as my seatbelt.

I used to not be able to travel up stairs with spaces in between them. I will never skydive. And as a child, I fainted inside a hot air balloon. This fear is bullying, but slowly I’ve worked out ways to move through it.

Kind of like life, I guess.

sanity from (a) satellite

Dear full moon,

I love you best when I am menstruating (as I am now) because we can be bloated together. And if I could find someone to throw me up towards you, I’d use my longest fingernail to punture your reflection. Might there be blood? Blood like mine? Mine is at its deepest red. I can describe it as cherry-tongue-red. You can call it blushed-cheek-red right after you find out the woman of your dreams loves you back. What is your temperature, moon? Mine is grey. What is your mood, moon? Mine is cloudy with a chance of temper-tantrum.

Today, I rode my bicycle across the Manhattan bridge, wearing shaky legs and thick sweaty hair beneath my helmet. It was after being pronounced ill. Not like leaky-nose-ill or scratchy-throat ill. My skin is sad. My bones have been weeping. It’s difficult to make decisions, moon, when salt leaks from my sockets.

As I crossed that bridge, I floated above water. Subways were to my left and many other bicyclists sped along beside me because I pedal slowly, moon. How else can I digest all this beauty beneath me?

I am living out loud, moon, but I am living in secrecy.


You are the biggest secret in the sky, lurking even in daytime. I see you winking at the sun, flirtatiously haunting the skyline.

I see you, moon. And I am doing my best to gather up your glow-in-the-dark reflection and reinterpret it. So, give me your best full-frontal gasp. I do not want a side view, moon. I do not want your sliver, your crescent, your sucked-in salutation. I want all of your robust, overweight self. Hem-less and scratched. You are brassy and brave, moon. I want some of that to stain me.

When the bridge ended, I was no longer in Brooklyn. Signs in a language no longer in English greeted me and street vendors boasted of their dim sum, rather than hot dogs. This felt more like home to me, I thought, as I dripped my cells onto the green bike path, sectioned off from the cars and traffic.

the earth cannot be followed, just indented.

Deep inside the smallest imprint, search for fur. Or cells that can be traced back to a memory which can only be found in a footprint. Each day, I am amazed at what sticks to my toes…the summary of an entire day:

dirt from garden stepping or Prospect Park
filth from sneakers left behind in the cracks and silently haunting the wooden floorboards of my bedroom
calluses are my favorite: it reminds me I have walked enough

On Wednesday, in my section of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, garbage decorates the curbside in blue bags and black bags and white bags. Like magic, they are picked up, crushed into smaller bits and turned into ghosts of consumed particles.

What if we ran out of places to throw things out. Would we eat less? Consume half our daily needs?

Note: We are running out of room for bodies. Go set yourself on fire because available earth is less than it was for wooden boxes and gravestones. How peaceful is death when flames force all elements of cells away?

How to plan an exit?

My fear of heights keep me far away from fire escapes and I can’t help but think of the young man in my old building who fell many floors down after stumbling off the escape. My first impression of him was a body wrapped in hard plastic to keep his bones steady.

I am not permitted anywhere near Jewish cemeteries, unless as a visitor. My experimented skin with permanent hieroglyphics excludes me as a welcome resident. So maybe I’ll let my skin flake off like phyllo dough and decorate the paths I travel on through bike and feet.

How difficult is it to expire and still be green and earth conscious?