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loss

Illustration by Anna Schuleit Haber

The Pardner

It has been a year and five days since Mayowa lost her daughter—lost, because she cannot say the other word: suicide. 

Trout

Two years after her mother’s death, Jane’s boyfriend asked her to marry him, and nine months later, they moved across the country to start their new life. Jane was twenty-nine, ready to step away from Phoenix after a hard few years. Ryan had taken a job at a recording studio in Tennessee, and he pointed out that the public schools there were as bad as the ones in Arizona, so she could easily fail teaching fourth graders in either place. Her father was a kind, if distant, ichthyologist, and he seemed to think the move was maybe not ideal, but maybe not a bad idea. Jane was excited to start over. She’d been adopted when she was six, and she thought of six as the beginning of her real childhood. As they drove out of town, she decided twenty-nine was the beginning of her real adult life.

Losing

After your father gets lost for the third time,
      you get angry because he won’t answer his phone.
Part of me wants him to stay lost. God, what has stolen my generosity? 

Illustration by Chloe Scheffe

Amsterdam

In Amsterdam I lived with a man who was always sad. His younger brother had died in a car crash when my lover was sixteen. Though it had been thirteen years since the accident, he carried the loss as if it were an heirloom. He had brought the loss from Copenhagen, where he was raised, to London, where we met. And now in Amsterdam, I felt it in our flat, its foggy chill. I watched him while he was sleeping and saw the sadness flutter behind his eyelids. Sometimes when he woke, he was on the brink of tears. His name was Örjan, and I began to think of the umlaut over the O as a mark of sorrow: It hovered like a shadow. 

The first time I invited Örjan into my bed was right after he told me about his brother. I pulled the story out, unraveling him line by line, until he began to shudder and weep and I had to wrap my body around his. I liked his sadness, the way it made his silences seem full. When he tied on his running shoes and set out for a jog, I knew he had demons to outrun. When he stared, unblinking, into his coffee, I was sure he was thinking that if his brother were still alive, he would now be twenty-seven, the same age as me. 

Illustration by Chloe Scheffe

Galicia

Antje came to Spain three years ago. She worked as a hotel maid in San Sebastián, where she met Mathis and married him. He was a manager at the hotel. He was eight years older. She was twenty-four and had left Germany after her mother died. Her mother had been in Kabul, serving as an engineer in the Bundeswehr. Antje had never traveled abroad before.

Illustrations by Jen Renninger

Total Loss

Fire does not abide by reason. In its destructive trail, there are empty bank accounts, unreturned voice mails, FedExed checks, hours upon hours of smooth-jazz hold music, fine print written in inscrutable jargon, and the summary Laurie learned to say for expediency’s sake: “My house exploded in a catastrophic fire. Can you please help me?”

Watcher

At first, there was nothing to do but watch.
For days, before the trucks arrived, before the work
of clean-up, my brother sat on the stoop and watched.

Believer

The house is in need of repair, but is—
for now, she says—still hers. After the storm,
she laid hands on what she could reclaim:

Illustration by Gary Panter

My Interview with the Avenger

This is a story about heroes. Yes, it is also a profile of a famous man, a “celebrity,” I suppose, but it is first and foremost a story about heroes, what they mean, and the draperies of significance with which we decorate them. The hero in question came to us as unexpectedly as a micrometeorite, and little has been the same since his impact. Of course, nearly everyone remembers how and when the man now known as the Avenger first made his existence public. Most origin stories are cumbrous with mythic overlay. But the Avenger arrived in twinkly, almost pointillistic detail. There was nothing to add to the story to make it better; it defeated augmentation.

Love Song for the Mother of No Children

You followed Oleta Esteban every time you saw her. At the grocery store she was buying frozen peas, milk and bread, chicken broth, two bananas. Is this what women ate after they lost their children? Oleta looked as if she scavenged crumbs left for birds, seeds scattered. Brittle, she was, an old child, thin bones beneath yellow skin, suddenly, terribly visible.

You remembered her in a red dress and white sandals, Oleta before Dorrie and Elia died, arms bare, toenails painted. She dropped her sandals in the dark grass to dance with her children barefoot.