Facing It

Facing it 

Sally Crossley 

 

“there will be time  

 To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;”  

—T. S. Eliot  

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock  

 

I’m six, seated at the old pine table in the kitchen, but instead of finishing my cereal I’m transfixed, mesmerized by the face caught in the gleaming metal of the two-slice toaster. Morning light streams through the windows on either side, hitting the curve of the toaster’s edges so my cheeks look fat, blurry, but there in the middle that’s me; it’s true. I smile. Wrinkle my nose. Blink. Scrunch up my nose, my mouth, to make faces—happy, hopeful, sad—all of which annoy my younger sister.  

“Mom, she’s looking at herself again,” she calls, so I stop, but then, after a few minutes, when I think no one is watching, I’m back at it. 

Then seventeen, eighteen, gazing into the small make-up mirror on my vanity. Pretty? Plain? Ugly? Trace a dark outline along the arc where the eyelashes meet the lids. Rub in eye shadow. Twirl on mascara. Brush a bit of blush along the cheekbones. Smear gloss over the lips. Blot. Blink. Study the reflection again. My eyes too close together, though I’ve had a compliment or two about how, at the outer edges, they lift like a cat’s. But my teeth are too big, my nose really too small.  

Catch a glimpse in a department-store mirror. In a window. In a rearview mirror. There I am. That’s me. That’s what I look like.  

Until it’s not. 

Oranges

Oranges 

Robin Reif 

We called it the Buffet of Dead Food: flaccid bacon, eggs—hard-boiled and cold—and toast so tough it scratched the roofs of our mouths. Still, the meal had a touch of grace: a pyramid of oranges, pulsing and alive in their pedestal bowl. My roommate—I’ll call her Maggie—always took one and placed it on her nightstand to eat later.  

When I first saw Maggie on arrival day for our year-abroad program, I would have cast her as Saint Joan. Willowy, with close-cropped hair, she projected stoic calm, though her eyes were so glassy that I often wondered whether she’d just been crying. It was not a love-seeking face, responsive and eager to please, like mine. Her face belonged only to her.  

Cover Up

Cover Up

I did not begin my time in Jerusalem with the desire to be dangerous. I arrived in that most intoxicating, infuriating, enervating, derelict, and sad of cities with a large black suitcase into which I’d folded a year’s wardrobe, plus books and toiletries. I had a postcollege fellowship at an Israeli civil rights and legal organization that soon came to feel too conservative for me. Its mission was laudable: it advocated for greater separation of religion and state and for equal allocation of government funds for all minority groups within ’67 borders. But the organization relied on funding mostly from Jewish groups in the United States, Europe, and Australia, which were, as one colleague explained to me, “progressive except for Palestine.”

Of Sound Mind and Memory

Of Sound Mind and MemoryOn Wills and Language and Lawyers and Loveby Judith Claire Mitchell

PreambleI, _____________, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, hereby declare this to be my Last Will and Testament . . .

Before I became a writer of novels, I was a writer of wills at the oldest law firm in Rhode Island. The firm was founded by two attorneys in 1818, but by the time I was hired as an estate planning paralegal, 160 years had passed and there were now fifty-some lawyers, almost all male, a like number of staff, almost all female, and a roster of prominent clients, almost all inanimate. The clients were banks and hospitals, manufacturers and developers, municipalities and Brown University.

Terrorist Doc

Terrorist DocUsing a scalpel, I made incision across the length of the baseball-sized mass in the patient’s upper eyelid. Within seconds, like walking in a dense fog, I was struggling to identify any recognizable and normal anatomical structures. I worried we would cut right through some vital tissue without realizing it. As if the delicate, hours-long procedure to remove the baseball-sized mass over her eye wasn’t nerve-wracking enough. I was also stressed that as a result of my more or less smuggling this patient—a five-year-old Palestinian girl from Gaza—into my hospital in Israel for a risky surgery, I might be fired or arrested at any moment, for “aiding terrorists.”

On Defeat and Diego

On Defeat and Diego

Alexander Ramirez

Once, while I was training at the Police Athletic League in Oak Park, Diego “Chico” Corrales walked into the gym holding a trophy half his size. He was a local amateur standout, a home-grown offensive dynamo poised to terrorize the professional ranks in another year or two. My dad followed his career in the newspaper, so I’d been told about his reputation as a heavy-handed bogeyman. I watched Diego balance the trophy against his hip. He was still a teenager then; I was seven years old.

Oil Town Overture

Town Overture

Dave Zoby

At five AM I smell coffee through the floorboards. Carter only drinks organic. He set up his own kitchenette down there. I hear the clink of his spoon against his ceramic coffee mug. I hear the shower come on, and after the shower, I hear him speaking on his phone to his wife, Jane. It’s still dark outside, and the wind is up. I scatter two scoops of kibble into my dogs’ metal bowls. They knock against me trying to get to their food. I crawl back in bed, hoping Carter will slip out into the frosty Wyoming morning without speaking to me. But it is not to be.

“Hey, man,” he says just outside my bedroom door, “Can you take me over to Miguel’s to drop off my truck?”

“When?”

“I’d like to get it over there this morning so he can get my brakes done before the weekend.”

Carter is smiling, holding his coffee cup close to his face. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece he picked up from the community college’s annual art sale.

“Yeah, I’ll do it.”

I throw back my sheets and pull on my jeans.

Opera House

Opera House

By Robert Stothart

Everything seemed married to everything else.

—Gustave Baumann, printmaker, Santa Fe Overture

A mere 7,918 miles in diameter, Earth, our home together, travels a minuscule distance in relation to all that we see on clear nights, light years away out in the stars. The core of our globe is a mix of iron and nickel, solid like a cherry pit. That solid inner core is wrapped in a liquid outer core, and around that a mantle eighteen hundred miles thick, about the distance from New York to Denver. This mantle—solid in parts, liquid in places, plastic in others—roils in convection currents under a relatively thin fourteen-mile crust, a vulnerable skin of sorts that weathers all seasons while holding on in a tenuous relationship with the globe’s deeper workings. That crust beneath our feet is constantly buckling, cracking, spreading, wrinkling, and pouring forth to reveal, as a face reveals, what goes on inside. Earth is face-all-over, and its insides are hot, reaching in places eight thousand degrees Fahrenheit.

The Valley of Boys

The Valley of Boys

Sage Marshall

Boys, boys, a valley of boys. We lived in a small town. The snow rose in silent blankets outside the classroom window. It came down so white and heavy we couldn’t see the mountains. We listened for the low growl of the snowplow in the playground pushing the snow together. By recess, there would be a large, long mound of snow on one side of the playground.

A Series of Tubes

Although widely ridiculed for the statement, the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was right when he said, “The Internet is a series of tubes.” He was just off by a century.

          Starting in the mid to late nineteenth century, pneumatic tube postal services linked post–telegraph offices with each other in every major financial hub in the world, on every continent but Antarctica. As improbable as it seems, propelling messages through hundreds of kilometers of subterranean tubes and pipes was a good solution for delivering messages across a busy city jammed with carriages and motorcars. The first pneumatic post system opened in London in 1853; New York’s pneumatic post shuttled first-class mail across the Brooklyn Bridge till 1953, their postal workers called “rocketeers;” the Prague system was in operation till 2002. Paris’s Poste pneumatiquewas the most extensive, encompassing some 450 kilometers of tubes in 1945, and it wasn’t until 1984 that telephone service became reliable enough to merit shutting down the Poste Pneumatique. There were many more pneumatic postal systems in more than sixty cities around the globe.