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I tattooed “so it goes.”

when I was 19 and drunk

on my left hand ring finger

I was laughing and alone

With a sewing needle

My red wine blood buzzed

So I couldn’t feel the poking

Mostly dragging

It’s blobbed now, like gravy

like Eddie’s sailor tattoos

taking a bath in the kitchen

From World War Two

He’s probably dead by now

in the kiddie pool on the roof

Oiled dandruff twirling around

the water’s skin

On the fourth of July

where he told us about the girls

In Korea, he had a picture of us

Pinned to the wall

So it goes.

My grandpa called me sexy

as I walked down the bent staircase

when I was twelve and I was stupid

He’s dead now, too.

It was Sunday and the grass was so green it burned my eyes. Back then, before the cherry blossoms took over, first the trees and then the faces, my eyes were sensitive to oversaturation. Too crisp, too dazzling felt like a papercut. A papercut I wish I could hold now. I wish I could hold it, even just for a few seconds.

On that particular Sunday, I sat my ass on a dewy bench between all the chatty bitches I hated. They thought I was some kind of devil, some kind of devil who doesn’t stick around for a chat, who doesn’t lunch, who doesn’t go to church with Mark and the children.

But this wasn’t church, it was a big green lawn attached to the cemetery. That quiet bed that as of late had been spilling over, consuming our elders like glazed chicken drummets, most bled to death, their casings emptying through pores, deflating, bagged skin swallowing bones.

The mayor had called us for a ceremony, some sort of morning prayer service, to protect our loved ones at home, not quite dead yet, wasting away in locked bedrooms. They had set up the benches in two rows with an aisle down the middle like a wedding. Every child under the age of six was instructed to lie down, in their Sunday clothes, their tiny shoes, on picnic blankets laid out in front of the benches. Some people were crying.

But the children did not cry, they lay down as they were told, twisting on their sides to giggle and squirm and whisper and smile screaming, tugging out grass with their fists and pretending to eat it. I remember watching my 3 year old daughter on that blanket, teething on her dress ribbon, hoping that my children would never grow up, not a day older, not a blade taller. I got nauseous thinking about it. I worried they would grow big and they would disgust me and I would stop loving them. Sometimes when I’m alone, I’m afraid. I don’t really love anyone. I love nothing at all.

The ceremony started. A woman, larger than a refrigerator, clomped down the aisle, veiled in black, clutching a basket filled with breadcrumbs. She spilled them in a trail on the path as she tread. She was swaddled in black velvet and silk and lace. Under her piled skirts I saw not two legs, but eight, thin ankles for such a woman larger than two cows sewn together. But fastened to the ankles were iron shoes, heavy as a horse’s. I couldn’t see much of her face buried beneath the curtains, but to me it looked like an oversized egg, smooth and hard and tan, mottled with dark splotches. I couldn’t make out eyes or mouth or ears or hair, to be honest I think she had none.

She hulked towards our children and fed each the crumbs. Little pigeons on the alter. Some sort of sacrament, I thought and I wasn’t wrong. Though more of a last supper. My daughter would never grow a day older.

The children, they did not cry, they lay there sleeping. Sleeping like the treasures they were, the treasures we wanted them to be. I’ve thought many times about becoming a treasure myself, but, as you know very well, it’s hard to know when to leave a party. Even a horrible party. A party where you’ve drank too much and said too much and made an absolute fool of yourself.

That weekend I went back to my apartment. I had some things I needed to collect. Or perhaps I didn’t need them but I wanted them. Anyway I had to check the mail.

There was that book I wanted, a cookbook, too, some clothes that better fit the weather, oven mitts, a full bear of honey. There were other things that I don’t remember now and I didn’t remember then either. Within one minute of entering my apartment I used my list to kill a cockroach and tossed it away.

To be honest I don’t remember leaving the place such a wreck. Vegetables rotting in the garbage, recycling piled by the door, tea leaves molding in the pot, dirty sheets on the bed. The whole place had marinated in a foul sort of warm sour smell and on top of that I had left all the windows shut.

After running around a while and not accomplishing anything I decided I should strip the bed. I stripped and stripped all the way down to the mattress pad, reminding myself of the moment when I took too much allergy medicine and drank too much wine and didn’t eat dinner and peed the bed. The pinkish yellow stain laughing at me in a large misshapen O.

I rummaged around the bedroom grabbing shorts and tank tops and dresses now that the weather was warm. I grabbed all my cash and my grandmother’s ring, a four leaf clover of jade and gold. I grabbed my pearl necklace.

After stuffing the dirty sheets, mattress pad, towels into a fat green laundry bag I stopped. I smelled oil cooking in a pan. I figured it must be my neighbors. My neighbors directly below me always cooked with their front door wide open and I could smell all kinds of things all the time. One time the apartment building smelled of rotting fish for a whole week. But then I remembered my neighbors below me had left, too. I wasn’t sure who was left in the building.

I carried the heavy bag into the living room and there, in the kitchen, was a middle aged woman with graying hair at the roots and a young girl, maybe 8. They had the apartment next door, but in the 3 months they had lived there I had never spoken to them. Well then again I had barely been there in that time.

“Hi… What are you doing?”

The woman was hunched over a pan frying something. I could see the thick oil spitting out of the pan onto my stove and the side of my refrigerator. The daughter was cutting up some onions on my cutting board with my knife. I don’t eat onions. Neither of them looked up. The frying was loud I guess.

“Hi.. What are you doing in my kitchen?”

I remembered two months ago, when I was still here, seeing odd items in the garbage. Vegetables I had never bought. Cheese I didn’t like. The garbage was filling up faster than it ever had, but I just started to bring it downstairs more and more.

The woman didn’t look up. She shifted things around with a spatula in the hot oil. “Well, yours came renovated much nicer than ours and has better appliances.”

“Ok, but-”

“You’re not here much anyway.”

The daughter stopped cutting and looked at me with glassy eyes.

“I know,” I said. “But it’s still my kitchen...”

The daughter kept her eyes on me. The knife in her hand. She was as still as wood.

“Look,” I said. “I’ll let you keep using my kitchen for right now. But you have to pitch in with the cleaning. It’s not enough for you to just clean your own dishes.”

“We aren’t much trouble.”

“Yes but you must clean the stove.”


“And the countertop.”


“And the oven.”

“I don’t touch the oven.”

“Fine, not the oven. But you must clean any bits and bobs that fall to the floor and occasionally clean out the sink.”

She kept on frying and her girl began cutting again. I grabbed the grocery bag with the mail, that book I wanted, a cookbook, some clothes that better fit the weather, oven mitts, honey. I squeezed the bag of recycling into the same hand and lumped the green laundry bag over the other shoulder.

Before I left I said, “Everything you need is under the sink.”

And as I opened the door, “Don’t forget the garbage.”

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