Sunday, April 23, 2006


Cogan bangs in. I don't look up; I can tell it's him by his clumping footsteps. "Hey," he calls out.

"Hi, Cogan."

He sheds his sweatshirt and comes into the kitchen, where I'm watching pizza microwave. Kisses me casually; he tastes like oranges. "You seem bored."

"I am." I sigh.

"No dates? Me neither," he says without waiting for an answer. "It sucks."

"Still got your eye on what's-her-name?"

"Elinor? Nah, she hates me, it's pointless." The microwave chirps and I slide the pizza slice out. Cogan gives me a puppy-look.

"Fine, I'll split it with you."

"I love you, Gabby," he says with a huge grin, shaking the hair out of his face. I can't help but smile back; he's rather a sweetheart, after all. I've known Cogan since the second grade.

Instead of cutting up the pizza, we eat it bite by bite. I make him give me the last one, since I was the one who nuked it, after all. Cogan consents. Then we move to the couch, nestling against each other. He turns on the TV.

"Nothing good's on," I mumble. "Nothing good's ever on."

He shrugs and flips channels, wielding remote like a shotgun, finally setting on a long, long music video in which an ethereal woman wails and there's an overactive fog machine. "Good enough," he says smugly.

I poke him just above the hip. "Cogannnn."

"Gabbeeeeee," he replies. "Gimme a kiss."

I give him a kiss, and he surprises me with a quick squeeze. "Sorry, Gabby, sorry," he apologizes immediately. "Couldn't help it."

"It's okay," I say. And I really don't mind. We've been roommates for almost two years now, we've fooled around a lot and fucked twice, and it's fun, a good outlet. We love each other, sure, but not that way. It's just a way to consummate our friendship, and we both know it.

Cogan yawns. "Work sucked today. This woman comes in and starts bitching about her coffee not being decaf. She wants her money back. She already drank the goddamn coffee. We're a bookstore, not fucking Starbucks."

I shake my head in sympathy.

"How bout you?"

"Went to pottery class, went to work, helped fifty little kids try on shoes, got some whining adults, got some decent customers. Robin's on my shift now, and she's really helpful. It was okay."

We watch TV for a while, not enthusiastically. We work on the crossword ("'aboard,' not 'on ship!'" I maintain). We go to bed.

It's a week later (the word was "aboard" after all), and I'm the one that bounces in this time. Cogan's home, reading a magazine. "Guess what?" and before he can guess-- because he always does-- I finish, "Hot guy."

"No way." He grins huge. I do too.

"Yes way. Came into the shoe store. Tried on a bunch of shoes."

"Hit on you?"

"Sort of. He took my card-- not just the store's card, but mine. I think I might get a call. Robin thinks so, too."

"Gabby, that's great!"

"Well, and you?" I say, taking my shoes off and throwing myself onto a comfy chair, feeling good all over. "Anything new going on?"

"Well, you know about Megan." For two days now he's known Megan, and she's all he's been talking about. Gorgeous gorgeous Megan. "She just started working at the bookstore. Turns out Fridays we work together. It'll be sick. She's just gorgeous, Gab."

"Does she like you?"

"She seemed friendly enough. She did that hair-and-sideways-glance thing."

I nod knowledgeablely. "She's into you all right." I don't know her, so he describes her for me: her shiny-gloss lips and straight red hair. Slim and tall, maybe even as tall as Cogan, who's what, five-ten? Seems nice enough-- seems absolutely wonderful, actually, but he is a little biased.

"Can't wait 'til Friday," Cogan says. He gets up, goes to the fridge, gets out a Popsicle. "Want one?"

"Sure." Megan wouldn't want a Popsicle, skinny little Megan. I've got some meat on me, God forbid. It's not like Popsicles are fattening anyway.

Cogan tosses me one; we eat them together. His is orange, mine grape. (We split our Skittles bags accordingly.) We talk about Megan, and then I describe the guy from the shoe store in detail. Cogan raises an eyebrow at the guy's nose stud, but approves overall. I'm content.

Friday gallops in and so does Cogan, obviously, because he calls me up breathless and goes, "Gabby, where are you?"

"At work, silly. And you're not supposed to call my cell here." Fortunately there's a momentary lag and no one's in the store, not too usual for a Friday.

"Gabby, Megan fucking likes me!"

You're shitting me, I think, but I don't say it. I opt for "Seriously?" instead.

"Seriously. I asked her out. We're going to dinner tonight." He sounds really excited, his voice tense with the effort of containing how thrilled he is. Not everyone would notice this, maybe, but I've known Cogan for almost my whole life, for maybe twenty years (God, that makes us seem old).

"That's great."


A customer comes in, and I say goodbye in favor of leather-sweat shoes.

Dinner's lonely. I look thoughtfully at my card. It has my home phone number on it, and my name. I wonder if anyone has ever been stalked by business card; certainly I haven't. On a certain level cards are all about trust, trusting the stranger.

Thinking makes me frustrated, and so I read instead, and surf the Internet. Listen to pounding music. Begin to feel better.

Ten o'clock Cogan comes home and wraps me in a gigantic hug. He smells different and looks flustery.

"Go well?"

"Fuck yes."

I offer up a smile, which he beams back tenfold.

The next day I get a call. "Hi Gabby, um, it's Kevin. You know, from the shoe store the other day? Basketball shoes? Do you remember me?"

I'm pretty sure I do.

"I'm sorry it took so long to call, I misplaced your card."

His voice is puce. I'm charmed by the way he refers to himself by his shoes, as though he thinks someone who works at a shoe store remembers someone by their footwear. "That's okay."

"So um..."

I know what he's going to say, more positively than I've known anything, so I help him out. "Want to go out? Catch a movie, maybe, or dinner?"

He laughs, sounding embarrassed. "Yeah, that was what I was getting to. I was thinking that diner down on Fourth Street."

"I have a date for tonight," I tell Cogan.

He's genuinely happy. And he has one, too, how convenient, and wasn't Kevin the name of my ex, the one that skateboarded? As it happens it was, and I had forgotten him completely until Cogan mentioned it.

"This Kevin is better."

Eating with him is far less awkward than first dates normally are. Turns out he is, of all things, a test pilot-- not the career I'd expected, with his shaven head and luxurious shoulder tattoo (a Celtic knot). "Forever Young's one of my favorite movies," I say, and he grins.

"Yeah, that definitely influenced me."

"So if you're in the military, why were you buying shoes at my store?"

"Someone told me a really attractive girl worked there," he says, downing a shot of Coke like an expert. I giggle. "Um, but I just wanted shoes for home, you know. They only give you those boots. Not really good ones, either."

"Are you a basketball player?"

"Yeah, as a hobby, not on a team or anything." His eyes are a very light green.

"And you don't have a girlfriend."

He grins, shakes his head, darts a eyelash-glance at me. He's so obvious it's rather darling. He's only twenty-four, after all, two years younger than me.

I kiss him goodnight, because I know he wants to kiss me but he's too shy, and we make plans for next Tuesday night. I feel triumphant. He drives away in his little beat-up old car with the anti-Bush bumper stickers, and I unlock the house.

Cogan's still not home.

I wonder what Kevin would think of Cogan, and feel a little nervous. It's not like he's my boyfriend-- neither of them are, actually-- but still.

Then I wonder what Megan thinks of me, if she's jealous; wonder what he's told her about me. Pretty uncomfortable situation for him too. But it pays off for us both, since after all we are close.

I go to bed before he gets home, and can't help but worry myself wide awake until I hear him inside. It must be three at least. I pretend to be asleep when he checks my room.

The next morning we dissect our dates in detail. Cogan's interested in Kevin, and I want to hear about Megan... to a certain extent. "Why were you so late last night?" I eventually dare ask.

But all he does is grin. "Blame Megan. Gabby, she's so wonderful. We were actually talking; I never do that with anyone. We talked for hours and hours. It was amazing."

"You talk to me," I point out, a little hurt.

"Well, you, sure. But you're different."

He talks to Megan on the phone all of Sunday. Retaliating, I call Kevin. His sweet inexperience makes me feel better. I'm only his fourth girlfriend-- well, not girlfriend, quite. His fourth date.

Cogan's calling himself Megan's boyfriend now. He's making assumptions too quickly, I think. Only middle-schoolers say they're together when they've been on two dates. But she does seem to like him, from what I hear. I still haven't met her, and when I ask he dodges the question. "I dunno, Gabby. She might think you're competition."

"Don't you want to meet Kevin?"

"Yeah, but not if you don't want me to."

I don't really know what to do, but that evening genius strikes and I make a suggestion: double-date. Kevin likes the idea, and I sandpaper-work at Cogan until he grudgingly agrees. "Just don't embarrass me."

"Cogan, I'm not Julia." Julia being his ex and a friend from high school. "I have some tact."

"Megan might see you as a threat."

"Well, Kevin will definitely see you as a threat, so just act into her and I'll act into him and no one will have anything to worry about."

"We won't be acting, Gabby."

I don't answer.

We set the date for Tuesday, when Kevin and I were going to get together anyway. We decide to have lunch and then catch a movie.

Monday passes agonizingly, Tuesday too fast. I go to the little cafe, where Megan is waiting. The guys haven't arrived yet. I recognize her from Cogan's description, surprisingly accurate. She's very cute, though surprisingly flat, one problem I haven't had to worry about since age eleven.

"Hi," I say, "are you Megan? I'm Gabby." We shake hands; hers is freezing cold. I sit by her. "I've heard a lot about you."

"So you're Cogan's roommate?"

"Yeah, we've known each other for ages."

"Really," she says. "Do you think he likes me?" She seems very shy and uncertain, suddenly, and I have to tell her the truth.

"Megan, he's incredibly into you. You're all he talks about."

She smiles, a little dubiously. "Well. I like him too. It's amazing, kind of, the way we hit it off."

She asks about Kevin, and I tell her a little. She says he sounds like her cousin. She's not so bad, after all. Then Cogan shows up-- "Sorry I'm late"-- gives her a long, graphic kiss, and then comes over and hugs me. I've been watching, a little weirded out. "Hey, Gabby. This is Megan, I guess you met."

"We did," she says. I nod.

Cogan tells us about work, and we listen. I feel really awkward. Fortunately, Kevin arrives. "Hi, Kevin!"

"Oh, God, I'm really sorry, I'm the last, aren't I?" He shakes hands with Megan and Cogan, then takes a seat beside me. The waiter, who we've been deterring for the past several minutes, comes back like an invincible fly and we order. Megan gets a salad, Cogan a hamburger, Kevin a sandwich, and I order soup. We manage to have spirited conversations somehow. Kevin and Cogan seem okay with each other, and Megan and I have achieved a tenuous acquaintanceship.

Turns out there's no film we really want to see, so we go to Cogan's and my house instead and watch, at Kevin's urging, Bonnie and Clyde. It's a movie I could watch forever. Cogan, who's seen it too many times, is unenthusiastic: he likes action, but more along the lines of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Megan hasn't seen it yet, somehow, and she cries at the end.

Then she says her shift at the bookstore they work at is coming up and gets up off Cogan's lap. And then Kevin leaves too, and it's just me and Cogan. We sit on opposite ends of the couch. I raise an eyebrow at him.

"That was fun," he says.

"Yeah. It was."

"Kevin seems like a good kid."

"Megan's pretty nice too," I allow.

"I guess now that we're both... we can't... you know."

"Yeah, I mean, it wouldn't be fair to them."

He nods, and we both move closer to each other until we're sitting in the crack between the pillows. I breathe him in.

"I like you better, Gabby," he says with a hitch in his voice.

"No you don't."

"I think I do."


"Maybe," he hesitates. "Maybe platonically."

"I know what you mean." Actually I feel kind of the same way. "Cogan?"


"I think we might get married. In a bunch of years. You and I."

"Yeah, maybe," he says thoughtfully. "Megan... she's really incredible, but not... I couldn't spend my life with her."

I picture Kevin, his sallow features and wannabe nose stud, his good looks and army-man, average mouth. I like him a lot, I really do, but he's not a Cogan. "I mean, we know each other so well, we might as well be married already," I falter.

He shrugs. "Might as well have fun while it lasts, I guess."

"You mean you wouldn't have fun being married to me?"

Now he smiles. "Wouldn't be the same."

A pillow fight ensues, and I guess I'll just take things as they come.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Barn

The site was cordoned off; yellow tape and child policemen surrounded it protectively. Yana drew her shawl around her shoulders and walked up to one of the policemen, bold by desperation. "Please, sir, can't I see?"

"I'm sorry, ma'am, we can't let anyone in." The boy had a very neutral face, beardless. Probably he couldn't even grow a beard. He couldn't have been twenty. He was very pale.

"But I think my fiance... he might be in there." The terrorist had been led away; he hadn't put up a fight. Everyone inside the barn was dead. Misha had been in the barn an hour ago, she knew, volunteering to enlist. She thought perhaps he had escaped. Hoped so blindly.

"I'm very sorry," said the boy, who looked like Yana's nephew Isak, really. "I wish I could help."

"When... when will they take out the bodies?"

The boy shook his head. "I don't know. Would you like to give me your telephone number, and I can let you know?"

Yana gave the boy her address instead. She didn't want to leave, though. An older policeman came and brought the young ones coffee and doughnuts. Her policeman offered her a quarter doughnut, which she accepted. She sat on a doorstep, adjusted her skirt and watched the policemen. They made her angry, the way they avoided the inside of the barn. Someone must have checked to see if all the people inside were dead, of course. Or had they? She thought of asking, but she had bothered the boys enough. She thought of Misha, his lamb's beard and lips that always bled. She wanted to tear off her headscarf and burn her fingers and rend her clothing. More, she wanted Misha to show up suddenly beside her and kiss her and kiss her.

The sun dimmed; shadows lengthened. Yana tore off her shoes and walked home barefoot. She ran a bath and couldn't stand to take it. She sat at the table, unable to do anything. Her mother came over. Yana talked to her for a few minutes and sent her off. She lit a candle and passed her fingers through the flame. The hours passed so slowly that Yana felt they had taken up a year. She slept perhaps two hours all night.

The next morning the young policeman knocked for her. Yana was thrilled to see him, and hugged him. He led her to the scene. "They took out the bodies, if you want to identify your fiance. If he's in there, which he might not be." He was a boy in all respects.

Some of the corpses were almost unscathed; others, maimed to the point of inhumanity. Misha was not among the recognizable ones, although two of the mangled ones had builds similar to his. "Reason enough for hope, I'd say," said the policeman optimistally. "If you find him, let me know, will you? I'll be at the police station for the next week. My name is Sander."

Yana nodded and let him lead her out. She walked home, still shoeless, almost wishing that her feet were not so callous so that they would show her pain. She opened her door and

--there sitting at her table was a man with a woolen coat and a lamb's beard and eager brown eyes and empty gloved hands--


She knocked him and the chair over in her incredulous joy, and he was laughing, "Yana, what are you doing, you'd think I'd been gone a year!" and she cradled his face in her hands.

"God, God above, Misha, didn't you know? The barn you went to enlist in, a terrorist set a bomb in it, not an hour after you'd gone. I was so worried, Misha, Misha."

Misha was speechless and Yana saw that his hands shook. She steadied them. "God," Misha said after a little time, which got it all across really.

"Well," said Yana at length. "Did they let you join the army?"

"I've got a weak heart," he said regretfully. "They wouldn't let me."

"Just as well," and Yana was happier than she would have wanted him to know.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

a post about me

I wrote a story but it is too personal right now to share. It has little to do with me but a lot to do with my beliefs. Maybe tomorrow.

I like George Harrison.

I made a new blog, because the name fried bread was not taken (why, I do not know).

I am planning a huge novel which will not be written for about a decade. Also I want to write some split-scenarios. My life will take a psycho turn which should entertain you all.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Bad Job

"Why do you do it?" I asked Ira. He wouldn’t look me in the eye, the weasel.

"It’s just for the money," he said softly. "It’s not like I have a choice."

"You could quit, you know."

"It’s more complicated than that."

I wanted to hit him. Ira was a coward, that was the matter with him. I felt a real hatred for him as I looked at him, the short man with the thinning hair and weak cyan eyes. Weak, that was the only way my brother could be described.

"Ira," I said, trying to stay calm. "You are... you’re a messenger is what you are. You call people when their family members are killed in combat to give them the news. What kind of fucking job is that?"

"It’s not that bad, Lizzy, and I mean, I can’t exactly quit. Someone’s got to do it and no one else wants to. But the people need to know. What’s more important, my conscience or their knowledge?"

"I don’t know." I sighed. "Ira, I’ve known you since before I was born. I don’t... I care about you. This sucks. Get yourself some nice job."

"And a nice house and a nice wife while I’m at it?"

"Seriously, though." Making an effort to see things from Ira’s point of view, I felt kind of sorry for him. He was trying to be a good person, sort of. And he was right-- someone had to break the news. If it wasn’t him, it would be someone else, someone else’s sibling.

Just as other people’s sibling’s deaths were what he had to talk about all day.

At a loss, I glanced at my watch and noted the time gratefully. "I’ve got to go, Ira. I’ll call you. Maybe we can work something out. I really do want the best for you."

"Just as I want the best for you, Lizzy."

We hugged and then I left his apartment, thoughtful.

He had a problem that I knew I would spend a lot of time thinking about, trying to solve.